The University of Michigan has had some significant wins over the program’s history. After all, no team has won more games at the college football level than the Wolverines. There are some wins that just seem to mean more, though.
From beating Notre Dame under the lights to winning Big Ten division titles, there are some great wins, but which ones are truly the biggest throughout Michigan football history? Here are our picks for the top five of all time.
5. Repeat Performance
In 1947, the Michigan Wolverines had won a share of the national title (more on that later) and were looking for a repeat in the 1948 season. They came into the season unranked, surprisingly, but quickly proved their worth with wins over Michigan State, Oregon, and Purdue by a combined 67-7.
Michigan shot up to number four in the rankings and got their first massive test against number three Northwestern. It was an early preview of who would win the Big Ten, and Michigan stepped up to the occasion in a big way. Michigan would score early and often, defeating the third-ranked Wildcats by a score of 28-0 en route to a Big Ten title and a national championship.
4. Ending the Curse
Heading into the 2021 season, Michigan had beaten Ohio State just once since 2003. Michigan had also never reached the College Football Playoff at that point, but everything would change on November 27, 2021. The Wolverines were ranked fifth while the Buckeyes were the number two team in the country.
The Wolverines surprised everyone by dominating on the ground and handling the Buckeyes’ offense, winning easily by a score of 42-27. Instead of having a hangover from the Ohio State win, the Wolverines would cruise to a 42-3 victory over Iowa in the Big Ten Championship, claiming their first conference title in 18 years and their first trip to the College Football Playoff.
3. Bo’s Big Debut
After spending six seasons as the head coach for Miami (Ohio), Bo Schembechler was signed to be the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines in hopes of getting the program on the right track. In his first season, Schembechler sent a message to the school’s biggest rival, which came into Michigan Stadium ranked number one.
The Wolverines were ranked 12th, and the defense dominated Ohio State, winning 24-12 in front of over 103,500 fans. Michigan finished the regular season with an 8-2 record, and although they didn’t win the Big Ten or the Rose Bowl (losing 10-3 to USC), the message was sent that Michigan football was back.
2. Post-War Confusion
College football was back in full swing after the conclusion of World War II, though there was another battle at the top of the polls during the 1947 college football season. This was between Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State, all of whom finished the season with perfect records. While voters were split between Michigan and Notre Dame, the Wolverines claimed a title in a big way.
The two schools shared one common opponent: USC. While Notre Dame defeated the Trojans 38-7, the Wolverines defeated them 49-0 during the Rose Bowl. It was the fifth shutout of the season for Michigan, which had bounced up and down between number one and number two in the rankings, finishing with a share of the national championship.
1. 1998 Rose Bowl
Michigan ran through an absolute gauntlet during the 1997 season in hopes of winning its first national championship since 1948. The Wolverines got off to a hot start by pummeling eighth-ranked Colorado and survived tough challenges from Notre Dame, Iowa, and Ohio State throughout the season.
Earning the number one ranking to end the regular season, the Wolverines just needed to defeat Ryan Leaf and the Washington State Cougars in the Rose Bowl and did just that. Washington State made it very interesting in the final seconds, but the Wolverines held on to earn their first championship in nearly 50 years, winning 21-16.