There have been many years when Michigan football looked like it was close to great, only to be let down. 2003, 2006, 2016 and 2018 come to mind.
But the world leader has a few years left in which to think the Wolverines should have won a national title. In fact, for a year, analyst Bill Connelly suggests Corn and Blue had the best team ever so as not to win all of the Schebang.
In Connelly’s ranking of the best college football teams to fail the national championship, the first team actually shared the award with arch-rival Ohio State. Of course, we’re talking about the 1973 tiebreaker year, when both the Wolverines and Buckeyes went 10-0-1 each. The only negative mark – if you can call it that – was the tie they had against each other.
19-18. 1973 Michigan and 1973 Ohio State
Records: 10-0-1 and 10-0-1
A joke: sixth or second
Ohio State’s three biggest wins over Michigan: 30-27 in 2016, 42-39 in 2006 … and 10-10 in 1973. The No. 4 Wolverines missed two field goals against the senior state of Ohio in the last 30 seconds in Ann Arbor and the next day, the Big Ten sporting directors voted to send the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl instead of the Wolverines, even though OSU had been there the year before.
Most ADs publicly cited an injury to Michigan QB Dennis Franklin as the main reason for the vote. UM head coach Bo Schembechler wept conspiracy until the day he died. Regardless, both programs were at their peak in 1973. In the 20 games that did not play against each other, they defeated opponents 723-112. That includes the OSU’s 42-21 destruction of USC in the Rose Bowl. Michigan would probably have done something similar.
But the highest of all marks goes to the 1947 team, which, according to Connelly, is the best team that never wins everything. And the reason has to do with another rival: Notre Dame. Michigan actually claims this year as a national championship, but it wasn’t viewed as such at the time.
1st 1947 Michigan
A joke: second
According to Jack Connor’s book Leahy’s Lads, Michigan coach Fritz Crisler said to Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy after the Irish destroyed the Wolverines in Ann Arbor between 35 and 12, “This was the laziest, dirtiest football game I’ve ever seen ever had. ” ever seen and if I have something to say about it, Michigan will never play Notre Dame again. “Is it confirmed by other sources? Not really. We have no real idea if it’s true. But UM didn’t actually play the Irish again until 1978, robbing both college football of an all-time classic and Michigan of a national title shot in 1947.
Beano Cook called the 1947 Notre Dame team the most talented team of all time, but Michigan seemed like no other on the field. They played three joint opponents (Pitt, Northwestern and USC), and while Notre Dame won by 71 points, Michigan won by 146. A mid-season hiccup – wins only 13-6 and 14-7 clear of Minnesota and No. 11 Illinois – Dropped them second in the polls behind the Irish, and voters were unable to account for an eventual 49-0 win over USC at the Rose Bowl. Michigan still claims the title thanks to the support of many computer ratings and a nod from the National Championship Foundation, but the Wolverines still qualify for a nice spot on this list.
Surely a year like 2006 or 2016 could have counted if corn and blue hadn’t lost to end the year. In our opinion, the Wolverines were among the best teams of every year, but were so depleted after the Ohio state losses that they didn’t show up at the bowl games.