Iowa completed one of College Football’s biggest upsets of the year in their victory over the University of Michigan on Saturday, but how much does this surprising loss really affect the Maize and Blue’s bid for a playoff berth?
By Evan Kolin (’18)
When Keith Duncan split the uprights as time expired Saturday night, the Iowa freshman clinched the Hawkeyes’ 14-13 win over Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines. The 70,000 plus that then proceeded to storm the field of Kinnick Stadium celebrated not for Iowa’s 6th win of the season, but moreso over the fact that it gave Michigan their first loss.
The Wolverines entered Saturday’s contest a perfect 9-0, and number two in the AP Poll behind just Alabama. All they needed to do was get through unranked Iowa, as well as the 5-5 Indiana Hoosiers, to remain unbeaten before their matchup with Ohio State that will more than likely decide the Big 10.
But Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz proved that getting out of Iowa City was not going to be an easy task. His defense dominated Michigan all night, allowing just 201 total yards, the Wolverines’ lowest output of the season. Not only that, but it was Harbaugh’s supposedly dominant defensive unit that let Iowa storm right down the field in the final minute for the game-winning field goal.
But what does this upset really mean for Michigan? Does it truly end their hopes of making it into the College Football Playoff? The new AP Poll came out on Sunday with Jim Harbaugh’s squad dropping just two spots to number four. Since it is the nation’s top four teams, chosen by the playoff committee at season’s end, that are given a birth to the playoff, the Wolverines’ loss certainly doesn’t eradicate their hopes of a national title.
Michigan’s only slight dip in the AP Poll is no doubt courtesy of two other major upsets that occurred Saturday: Pitt’s victory over number three Clemson followed by USC’s triumph over the number four Washington Huskies. Those two games, combined with the Wolverines’ debacle in Iowa, mark just the second time in history that the number two, three, and four ranked teams in College Football were all beaten in the same given week.
By virtue of this bizarre stat, Michigan is still in control of their own destiny, and their defeat really doesn’t change their season all that much outside of a one in the loss column. If they win out, including their meeting with the Buckeyes in Columbus, a playoff berth is still likely in grasp, as is the possibility of a 12th national championship in school history.
However, the Wolverines may have to do all of this without their starting quarterback Wilton Speight, who could be out for the season following a broken collarbone. That means it is backups John O’Korn and Shane Morris who will have to get Michigan back on track. “They looked really sharp today,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press on Monday regarding his backup QBs. “Both those quarterbacks looked extremely good today. We had an excellent practice.” But despite what coach Jim says, Speight will undeniably be a tough player to replace.
Yes, their attempt at an undefeated season is now gone. But let’s say the Wolverines do go all the way. In 50 years, when we look back at Jim Harbaugh, Jabrill Peppers, and this historic Michigan team, what will we remember more: the national championship banner hanging atop the Big House, or the Keith Duncan chip shot that gave Iowa a bowl game?