State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ — January 1, 2023
Yesterday afternoon the College Football Playoffs kicked off with the Michigan Wolverines taking on the TCU Horned Frogs in the first semifinal game at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Vrbo Fiesta Bowl produced a highly entertaining matchup showcasing the offenses of both teams.
Unfortunately for Michigan fans, the result will likely be a painful memory of what could have been.
After the opening kickoff from TCU resulted in a touchback, Michigan began with the first possession at their own 25-yard line. On the first play of the game, Donovan Edwards broke free for a 54-yard scamper to the TCU 21-yard line. Eight plays later, Michigan was facing a fourth-and-goal at the TCU two.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh passed up a chipshot field goal in favor of a fourth down gamble to score a touchdown. An ill-advised trick play resulted in an eight-yard loss and a wasted scoring opportunity.
After a TCU three and out followed by a 48-yard punt, Michigan began their second possession on their own 34-yard line. This Wolverine drive began with a J.J. McCarthy pass that was intercepted. A 41-yard pick-six put TCU up by seven. A lead they never relinquished.
On TCU’s next possession, the Horned Frogs drove 76 yards in 12 plays to take a 14-0 lead.
Michigan answered just over a minute into the second quarter with a Jake Moody 42-Yd field goal. On the first play of TCU’s next possession, Max Duggan’s pass was intercepted by Rod Moore, and Michigan was set up for a chance to cut the deficit. McCarthy attempted to do just that. His long first down pass found Roman Wilson inside the TCU five-yard line, and he tumbled into the end zone for an apparent touchdown.
All scoring plays are reviewed automatically, and officials ruled that Wilson’s knee touched down at the one. The touchdown came off the board, and Michigan’s offense came back on the field to a first and goal at the one-yard line. It was the first of many controversial calls that the officiating crew from the Southeastern Conference was involved with during the evening.
The decision was even more impactful as Michigan fumbled the ball away on first down, and their second trip inside TCU’s five-yard line resulted in no points scored.
Another long possession by the Horned Frogs covered 83 yards in 10 plays resulting in a 21-3 lead. A late drive by the Wolverines gave Jake Moody a shot at a 59-yard field goal, which he nailed as time expired for a halftime score of TCU 21, Michigan 6.
The third quarter started slowly with a short TCU possession and another Michigan field goal. Then things went crazy. Six touchdowns were scored, with neither team holding onto the ball for more than 2:07 ( a TCU possession of six plays covering 75 yards). In total, 44 points were added in the third, 24 by Michigan and 20 by TCU. TCU 41, Michigan 30.
The quarter ended with the Wolverine’s Mazi Smith forcing a fumble, which he recovered at the TCU 27-yard line. Two plays into the fourth, Roman Wilson ran 18 yards for a touchdown. McCarthy then found Ronnie Bell with a pass for the two-point conversion, and Michigan was within three, 41-38.
The Horned Frogs responded with a touchdown and field goal to go up by 13. A nine-play, 56-yard drive by Michigan culminated with another Wilson score. This time on a five-yard toss from McCarthy to make it 51-45 TCU with 3:18 to go in the game.
Michigan’s defense stiffened, and TCU punted the ball back to the Wolverines with 52 seconds on the clock and 75 yards away from a potential tying/winning touchdown. Michigan could not move the ball, and a desperation toss to Colston Loveland for a loss of 1 yard to the Michigan 24 appeared to end the comeback attempt.
Game officials had a chance to make up for some questionable calls that went against the Wolverines when they reviewed the tackle of Loveland. The play ended with a brutal helmet-to-helmet collision that appeared to be a targeting foul. After checking the replay, no penalty was called, and TCU ran out the clock to advance to the CFP final.
Semifinal #2 Georgia vs. Ohio State
Ohio State took a 38-24 lead over Georgia into the fourth quarter of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. It was not a great evening for the Big Ten Conference. The Bulldogs outscored the Buckeyes 18-3 in the final quarter and advanced to the championship game in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on January 9th, 2023.