Michigan did not meet its lofty expectations for the 2016 season. But the Wolverines are looking to finish strong against FSU in the Orange Bowl.
Michigan failed to reach the College Football Playoff when the selection committee released its final rankings on Sunday, as Jim Harbaugh’s squad finished the regular season at No. 6—behind fellow Big Ten member Penn State and one spot lower than the previous week’s ranking.
When the 2016 college football season began, the Wolverines (10-2) had their sights set on a Big Ten championship and a national title, but those hopes were dashed when they fell in double overtime to Ohio State in Columbus to close out the regular season. The setback came not long after the Wolverines had dropped their first game to Iowa on the road.
Losses by Clemson and Washington in their conference championship games this past weekend seemingly would have been the only way for the Wolverines to get into the dance. Despite the fact that the two losses in their final three games came by a total of just four points, those were setbacks nonetheless.
Will Michigan, disappointed that it cannot win a national title, be focused and motivated enough to be on its “A” game against Florida State (9-3) in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 in Miami Gardens, FL?
This is still a New Year’s Six Bowl, and the Michigan roster is littered with pre-Harbaugh players, such as senior tight end and co-captain Jake Butt and defensive end Taco Charlton, who will want to end their Wolverine careers on a high note against an FSU team that has played very good football down the stretch. The Seminoles have won six of their last seven games with just a three-point setback to Clemson marring their run.
Plus, it’s FSU and the Orange Bowl. Those are still chic brands, so expect the Wolverines to be ready to play under a leader who always has his teams well-prepared no matter the circumstances.
“We’re going to play [the game] because we love it, we love to play,” Harbaugh said on Sunday evening during an Orange Bowl teleconference. “We love the game. Have great respect for the game of football and what a tremendous opportunity this is to play in the Orange Bowl against a great football team.
“I’m excited about it. [We] don’t have any statement to make on anything other than that. Great place to play and coach.”
The Orange Bowl will serve as the third meeting between Michigan and Florida State and first time the programs have faced each other since 1991, when FSU went into Ann Arbor and claimed a 51-31 win.
The teams also met in 1986 at Michigan, which was during Harbaugh’s senior year. The Bo Schembechler-led Wolverines won by two points, 20-18, over Bobby Bowden, Deion Sanders and the ‘Noles.
Despite missing out on the CFP, this is an important game for the Michigan program.
“We love to compete,” Harbaugh said. “The opportunity to play the next game, win the next game; that’s been our mantra as a football team.”
Michigan was four points away from being undefeated and competing for a national championship. While the disappointment of being out of the CFP will probably never wane, there is still a lot for this team to prove and put a bow on what has still been a successful season. And Harbaugh is looking forward to the preparation.
“I know I’m motivated and ready to put in the work and looking forward to it,” Harbaugh said.