A timeline of Michigan’s 2023 chaos: Sign stealing, coaching turnover and two Jim Harbaugh suspensions
It’s been an eventful year at Michigan.
Long before the sign-stealing allegations and long before the football team steamrolled opponents to a 10-0 record while seeking its third consecutive College Football Playoff berth, the Wolverines have been surrounded by controversy.
It started days into the new year, when, on one day, Michigan received an NCAA notice of allegations regarding recruiting violations and put out a statement that Jim Harbaugh, despite his NFL overtures, would be staying in Ann Arbor for 2023.
From there, things only got stranger. There was the assistant fired for “computer access crimes” and another staffer, who happened to be the son of legendary coach Bo Schembechler, resigning three days after being hired because of his social media activity.
Michigan has continued to thrive on the field in spite of all the chaos. Harbaugh will serve a second suspension of the year after the Big Ten banned him from the final three games of the regular season for violating the league’s sportsmanship policy. (He missed the first three games as the school self-imposed a penalty related to the recruiting violations.)
If you’ve had trouble keeping up, here’s a full rundown of the past 10 months of drama in Ann Arbor.
Jan. 5: Michigan receives a draft of an NCAA notice of allegations, which alleges violations of impermissible contact with recruits during NCAA-mandated dead periods, as well as an off-field analyst being involved in on-field coaching activities, a violation of NCAA rules. It is reported that Harbaugh allegedly met recruits and bought them hamburgers at a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
On the same day, Harbaugh issued a statement on university president Santa Ono’s Twitter account, one in which he pledges to remain Michigan’s coach, after reports surfaced of his interest in potentially leaving his alma mater for the NFL.
“As I stated in December, while no one knows what the future holds, I expect that I will be enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023,” Harbaugh said in the statement. “I have spoken with president Santa Ono and athletic director Warde Manuel and appreciate their support of me and our program.”
At the time, sources told ESPN that Harbaugh’s lack of cooperation with NCAA enforcement staff during the investigation led to a delay. According to a source, the draft of the notice of allegations includes a Level I violation, the most serious under NCAA rules, because Harbaugh didn’t cooperate or misled NCAA investigators. Sources indicated that Harbaugh might face a multigame suspension.
In a statement, Manuel said the school has “cooperated and will continue to cooperate with this investigation.”
Jan. 19: Yahoo Sports and ESPN report that an attempt to expedite Michigan’s NCAA infractions case fell apart because Harbaugh refused to acknowledge during multiple meetings with NCAA officials that he lied or misled investigators.
ESPN reported that Harbaugh maintained to investigators that he didn’t remember the recruiting incident in question, which led to a standstill in the infractions case. If Harbaugh had admitted he lied or wasn’t forthcoming, he probably would have faced a multigame suspension. The notice also included four Level II recruiting violations, which are less significant in severity and punishment.
Jan. 20: Michigan fires co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss after it says he failed to attend a meeting to discuss whether he gained unauthorized access to computer accounts assigned to other people in December 2022.
University of Michigan police confirmed there was an active investigation regarding potential computer crimes at the Schembechler Hall football building. The university, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, informed Weiss it had evidence he “inappropriately accessed” others’ accounts. Weiss spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons with the Wolverines, most recently as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
May 20: Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler, son of legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler, resigns three days after he was hired as the football program’s assistant director of football recruiting.
According to a report in The Detroit News, Schembechler’s Twitter timeline included “likes” of offensive and insensitive posts, including several suggesting that slavery and Jim Crow laws had a positive effect of strengthening Black people and families.
In a statement, Manuel and Harbaugh acknowledged that Schembechler’s posts caused “concern and pain for individuals in our community.”
Schembechler, a longtime NFL scout, apologized the next day, writing in a statement, “I was wrong. We must never sanitize morally unsanitary, historical behaviors that have hindered the Black community, or any other community. There are no historical silver linings for the experience of our brothers and sisters.”
July 25: Yahoo Sports and ESPN’s Pete Thamel report that Michigan and the NCAA were working toward a negotiated resolution in the infractions case that would include a four-game suspension for Harbaugh to start the 2023 season.
Aug. 12: Reports surface that the negotiated resolution between Harbaugh and the NCAA enforcement staff was not approved by the NCAA committee on infractions.
In a rare public statement regarding an ongoing infractions case, Derrick Crawford, NCAA vice president of hearing operations, said, “The Michigan infractions case is related to impermissible on and off-campus recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period and impermissible coaching activities — not a cheeseburger. It is not uncommon for the COI to seek clarification on key facts prior to accepting.”
Aug. 21: Michigan self-imposes a three-game suspension on Harbaugh to start the 2023 season after failing to come to terms on a negotiated resolution, meaning Harbaugh would miss nonconference home games against East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green.
“While the ongoing NCAA matter continues through the NCAA process, today’s announcement is our way of addressing mistakes that our department has agreed to in an attempt to further that process,” Manuel said in a statement. “We will continue to support coach Harbaugh, his staff, and our outstanding student-athletes. Per the NCAA’s guidelines, we cannot comment further until the matter is resolved.”
In a statement released by the school, Harbaugh said, “I will continue to do what I always tell our players and my kids at home, ‘Don’t get bitter, get better.'”
Sept. 23: Harbaugh returns to the sideline for Michigan’s 31-7 victory over Rutgers at the Big House. It is the Wolverines’ 19th consecutive home victory, their longest streak since winning 21 in a row from 1998 to 2001.
Michigan runs for 201 yards and allows only 77 on the ground.
“That’s the kind of game Bo Schembechler would’ve been really proud of,” Harbaugh said.
Oct. 18: The NCAA notifies the Big Ten and Michigan that it had received allegations the Wolverines were involved in a sign-stealing scheme and had allegedly sent representatives to games to scout future opponents, which has been prohibited by NCAA rules since 1994. The Big Ten said it had notified Michigan’s future opponents of the allegations.
“The Big Ten Conference considers the integrity of competition to be of utmost importance and will continue to monitor the investigation,” the conference said in a statement.
In a statement, Harbaugh denied being involved or having knowledge of the scheme.
“I do not have any knowledge or information regarding the University of Michigan football program illegally stealing signals, nor have I directed any staff member or others to participate in an off-campus scouting assignment,” Harbaugh said.
Oct. 19: ESPN reports that Connor Stalions, a Wolverines off-field analyst and retired captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, is at the center of the NCAA’s investigation into alleged sign stealing. Sources told ESPN that NCAA enforcement staff sought access to Stalions’ computer.
A source told ESPN that the Wolverines have used an “elaborate” scouting system to steal signals from future opponents since at least 2021.
Michigan announced the next day that it had suspended Stalions with pay pending the conclusion of the investigation.
Oct. 23: ESPN reports that Stalions purchased tickets in his own name for more than 30 games at 11 Big Ten schools over the past three seasons (A 12th school later added that Stalions had purchased tickets at its stadium as well). In many cases, Stallions forwarded the tickets he bought to at least three people in different parts of the country.
The scope of the alleged sign-stealing operation included video evidence of electronics prohibited by the NCAA to steal signs and a significant paper trail, sources told ESPN.
An opposing Big Ten school accessed in-stadium surveillance video from a game earlier this year, and sources said the person in the seat of the ticket purchased by Stalions held his smartphone up and appeared to film the home team’s sideline the entire game.
The next day, ESPN reports that Stalions bought tickets for games at four non-Big Ten schools that were in College Football Playoff contention or were playing contenders, as well as tickets to the 2021 and 2022 SEC championship games.
Oct. 26: University of Michigan deputy chief Melissa Overton confirms the FBI has joined the department’s investigation into Weiss’ alleged unauthorized access into others’ computer accounts. Overton called the investigation “extensive, ongoing and … of the utmost priority.” She added that the investigation covered several states. Weiss has not been charged with a crime. Police told ESPN that the investigation was unrelated to Stallions’ alleged sign-stealing scheme.
Oct. 27: A former Division III player and assistant coach tells ESPN’s Dan Murphy that Stalions paid him “a couple hundred dollars” and provided him with a ticket to a Michigan home game to record future Wolverines opponents.
The man said he attended three Big Ten games during the past two seasons to record the sideline of a future Michigan opponent. He said that he uploaded the videos he took on his personal cellphone to a shared iPhone photo album but that he does not know who else other than Stalions had access to the album.
Oct. 31: Central Michigan announces that it is investigating photographs of a man who resembled Stalions standing on its sideline during the Sept. 1 opener at Michigan State.
The man, dressed in Central Michigan gear and standing with several of the team’s coaches, was wearing a bench credential. Photos obtained by ESPN showed a man wearing sunglasses — during a night game — and holding a possible play sheet.
“We obviously are aware of a picture floating around with the sign-stealer guy,” Chippewas coach Jim McElwain said. “Our people are doing everything they can to get to the bottom of it. We were totally unaware of it. I certainly don’t condone it in any way, shape or form. I do know that his name was on none of the passes that were [given] out. Now we just keep tracing it back and tracing it back and try to figure it out.
“But it’s in good hands with our people, and again, there’s no place in football for that.”
Nov. 1: During a 90-minute video call with Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti, a vast majority of Big Ten coaches expressed frustrations with the ongoing sign-stealing investigation at Michigan. Harbaugh was on the call but hung up once coaches started discussing the allegations involving his program.
Sources told ESPN that many of the coaches urged Petitti to take immediate action. The league’s sportsmanship policy gives Petitti the authority to investigate and discipline Michigan before the lengthy NCAA investigative and infractions process would conclude.
“Collectively, the coaches want the Big Ten to act — right now,” said a source familiar with the call. “What are we waiting on? We know what happened.”
Petitti had a video call with Big Ten athletic directors the next day; Manuel didn’t participate.
Nov. 2: Ono sends an email to Petitti, urging him to respect due process and the ongoing NCAA investigation into the football program.
In the email, Ono noted that no program would want to be in Michigan’s position and that he is “deeply concerned” about the allegations, adding that the school is “committed to ethics, integrity, and fair play.” But Ono encouraged Petitti to let the NCAA’s investigative process play out before imposing discipline, which other Big Ten coaches and athletic directors have encouraged him to do sooner.
Nov. 3: Stallions resigns from his position at Michigan, the same day Petitti meets with Ono on the Michigan campus. Sources told ESPN that Stalions did not attend a scheduled meeting with Michigan officials, possibly on advice of counsel. Sources were unsure whether he will cooperate with the NCAA investigation.
In a statement provided to The Athletic, Stalions said, “I love the University of Michigan and its football program. And I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with the incredible student athletes, coach Harbaugh and the other coaches that have been a part of the Michigan football family during my tenure. I do not want to be a distraction from what I hope to be a championship run for the team, and I will continue to cheer them on.”
Stalions’ attorney Brad Beckworth added in a statement, “Connor also wants to make it clear that, to his knowledge, neither Coach Harbaugh, nor any other coach or staff member, told anyone to break any rules or were aware of improper conduct regarding the recent allegations of advanced scouting.”
Nov. 6: The Big Ten formally notifies Michigan that it could be facing disciplinary action from the league, a university official told ESPN.
The letter sent to Michigan is part of the Big Ten’s sportsmanship policy, which requires a notice of disciplinary action “in the event it becomes clear that an institution is likely to be subjected to disciplinary action.”
The Big Ten’s letter alludes to evidence of the illegal signal stealing, which compromised competitive integrity and other principles of the sportsmanship policy, according to sources.
Manuel announced the same day that he will not travel to Texas for College Football Playoff selection committee meetings and will remain on campus “attending to important matters regarding the ongoing investigation into our football program.”
Nov. 10: The Big Ten suspends Jim Harbaugh for the remainder of the regular season (games against Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State) for being in violation of the league’s sportsmanship policy by “conducting an impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage that compromised the integrity of competition.”
Harbaugh is allowed to coach the team during the week and be present at all activities outside of the games.
Nov. 16: A day before a scheduled hearing to appeal the suspension, Michigan and Jim Harbaugh reached an agreement with the Big Ten. The conference would drop its investigation while Harbaugh accepted his three-game suspension, meaning he will not coach against Maryland or next week against Ohio State.
Manager Jim Leyland selected to Hall of Fame
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jim Leyland, the longtime manager who guided the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series title, was selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Leyland was named on 15 of 16 ballots in the selection process during a meeting of the Hall’s contemporary baseball era committee, which examined the cases of managers, umpires and executives whose greatest contributions came after 1980.
Nominees needed to be named on at least 12 ballots for enshrinement. Falling just short was former manager Lou Piniella, who was named on 11 ballots. Executive Bill White was listed on 10 ballots. Also considered were managers Cito Gaston and Davey Johnson, umpires Ed Montague and Joe West, and executive Hank Peters.
Leyland will become the 23rd person to be inducted into the Hall as a manager and the first since 2014, when Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox were enshrined. Leyland, who got his start in the majors as a coach under LaRussa with the Chicago White Sox, was asked to sum up what he tried to impart to his players over the years.
“I tried to impress upon them what it was to be a professional and how tough this game is to play,” Leyland said. “And I told them almost every day how good there were.”
Leyland never advanced beyond Double-A as a minor league catcher during a playing career that ended in 1970. But he more than made up for that during a long managerial career that began in the minors in 1971. He landed his first big league job with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 and went on to win 1,769 games over a 22-year big league career that ended in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers. He ranks 18th on the all-time managerial win list.
Only Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy won more games among managers who never made the big leagues as a player. As he waited for the call from Hall of Fame chairperson Jane Forbes Clark on Sunday, Leyland initially thought the hour advanced late enough that the call — 60 years in the making — was not going to arrive. Then it did.
“I thought when I didn’t get [the call] by a quarter of seven, it wasn’t going to happen,” Leyland said. “So I went up just to rest a minute and get my thoughts together. When my son came up, the phone rang and it was the Hall of Fame. I couldn’t believe it. There was definitely a tear in my eye.”
Leyland managed numerous superstar players during his career, including all-time greats Barry Bonds and Miguel Cabrera. As much as he was respected by the superstar players, he was known as a skipper who treated everyone in his clubhouse as an equal.
“All the good managers realize it takes 24-25 guys,” Leyland said. “It takes one heartbeat to sustain. I try to communicate with everybody.”
Known for his lovably irascible manner and pregame news conferences conducted in undershirts amid a haze of cigarette smoke, Leyland reached his pinnacle with the 1997 Marlins, an expensively built team designed to win fast. With Leyland leading a team full of stars including Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou and Kevin Brown, the Marlins went on to beat Cleveland in a seven-game World Series.
After that Marlins club was dismantled, Leyland moved on to manage the Colorado Rockies for one season before spending his final eight managing the Tigers. Detroit won two pennants during his tenure (2006 and 2012) and earned four postseason appearances.
Leyland was named Manager of the Year three times, twice in the National League (1990 and 1992) and once in the American League (2006).
Leyland, 78, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 21 in Cooperstown, New York. He originally signed as a player with the Tigers organization in 1964, so when he is recognized among the game’s immortals next summer, it will be the crowning achievement of 60 years around the professional game.
“It’s the final stop, really, as far as your baseball career goes,” Leyland said. “To end up and land there at Cooperstown? It doesn’t get any better. I mean, that’s the ultimate.”
College Football Playoff first look: Previewing Michigan-Alabama and Washington-Texas
The final four-team College Football Playoff field is set, with the selection committee having to make the toughest decision it had ever faced.
We knew going in that history would be made and that at least one team and its fan base would be left with some serious gripes. Would an unbeaten Power 5 champion be left out for the first time? Would the SEC be shunned? Would the No. 1 team going into the conference championship games fall out?
In the end, Big Ten champion Michigan was awarded the No. 1 seed and will face No. 4 Alabama of the SEC. In the other semifinal, Pac-12 champ Washington, the No. 2 seed, will face No. 3 Texas of the Big 12.
Here’s our first look at the four-team field, including key players, X factors and what each team has to do to win it all.
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama
CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Prudential
When: Monday, Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ET
Where: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California)
How to watch: ESPN and ESPN App
Key player: RB Blake Corum
Corum tied Michigan’s career rushing touchdown record in the Big Ten championship game with his 55th TD. He has carried the load for the Wolverines the past few seasons and the offense has gone through him. He led all FBS running backs with 24 touchdowns and had his third 1,000-yard season. When Corum is productive, it opens up the rest of Michigan’s offense and creates an easier path for the passing game. Corum is a team leader as well, and his two touchdowns against Ohio State put Michigan over the top and propelled the Wolverines toward the playoff.
X-factor: CB Mike Sainristil
Sainristil doesn’t get a lot of the attention, but he has been a leader on Michigan’s defense. He came up with two forced fumbles in the Big Ten championship game against Iowa and was integral in stopping the Hawkeyes offense. He had 30 total tackles on the season and four interceptions along with six pass breakups. He started his career at receiver before making the switch to corner, and over the past two seasons has built himself into a potential NFL draft pick on defense.
How Michigan wins: The offense performs at its peak
The offense hasn’t been at its best the past few weeks, but has done enough to stay undefeated. In the postgame press conference after the Big Ten title game, Jim Harbaugh said the team will have to clean up some things up in pass protection and the run game in order to have success in the playoff. The defense has been outstanding all season, but against the teams that Michigan will face in the playoff, the Wolverines will have to put up more points. That means Corum putting up big numbers and quarterback J.J. McCarthy complementing the run game with the passing attack we saw early in the season. — Tom VanHaaren
Key player: QB Jalen Milroe
Since his benching against South Florida in Week 3, Jalen Milroe has been one of the most dynamic players in college football. He has accounted for 28 touchdowns and turned the ball over just five times in leading the Crimson Tide to 11 straight wins. His ability to scramble for big gains and buy time in the pocket make him extremely difficult to defend for any defense, but he also has a big arm and has repeatedly connected with his receivers on deep throws. Georgia coach Kirby Smart compared the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Milroe to Lamar Jackson last week because of his acceleration in the open field and arm strength to push the ball down the field. Alabama coach Nick Saban said the Crimson Tide wouldn’t be in this position had Milroe not responded to his benching the way he did and continued to improve and “be our point guard.” Milroe’s decision-making has gotten significantly better as the season has progressed, and he said a lot of that is because he’s played with more freedom and confidence since Saban told him unequivocally that it was his job.
X factor: OLB Dallas Turner
Turner has been Alabama’s biggest disruptor on defense. The junior is the Tide’s best pass-rusher and can change the complexion of a game with a big sack or a tackle for loss that kills an opposing offense’s drive. Turner leads Alabama with 14.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. Championship teams need a big-play defender who can cause the opposing offense to get out of its rhythm. The 6-4, 252-pound Turner is that player for the Crimson Tide.
How Alabama wins: By hanging around and being there at the end
Alabama has been one of the more resilient teams in the country. The Tide trailed five times in the second half in SEC games this season and rallied to win. In other words, they know how to win close games, and the more they’ve played, the more confident they’ve become in being able to finish games. Alabama’s offense isn’t necessarily built to get into high-scoring showdowns and having to come back from big deficits. But if the Tide are in the game in the fourth quarter, that’s their comfort zone. They don’t get rattled, and Milroe has delivered in pressure-packed situations. — Chris Low
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 3 Texas
CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl
When: Monday, Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. ET
Where: Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
How to watch: ESPN and ESPN App
Key player: WR Rome Odunze
Even as quarterback Michael Penix Jr. generated Heisman Trophy consideration, Odunze has always been the Huskies’ best player. Whenever the team has needed a big play, Odunze has gotten the call. It happened, most notably, in the final minutes against Oregon in the regular season, when he hauled in the game-winning touchdown. And then, again, in the Apple Cup when he took an end around to pick up a monumental first down on fourth-and-1 from the Huskies’ 29-yard line. Odunze finished the regular season No. 4 in the country in receiving yards (1,326), No. 6 in receiving touchdowns (13) and is sure to be one of the first receivers off the board in the upcoming NFL draft.
X factor: RB Dillon Johnson
As teams devoted more effort to stopping the Huskies’ prolific passing offense as the season went along, Johnson became a more valuable asset. He rushed for 615 of his 961 regular-season yards over the last five games with seven touchdowns in that span. The Mississippi State transfer ran 28 times for 152 yards and two scores to help take down the Ducks on Friday night and should be a key factor in this game.
How Washington wins: Penix finds his early-season form
At the halfway point of the season, Michael Penix Jr. was the clear Heisman front-runner. He had the numbers. He passed the eye test. There wasn’t anything, it seemed, that could slow him down. But as the season went along, something felt off. He was still good enough to lead the Huskies to a 12-0 mark and ranked No. 2 in passing yards (3,899), but his accuracy regressed and the big plays weren’t as plentiful. When he’s at his best, though, Washington can beat anyone, as evidenced by the Huskies’ 34-31 win over the Ducks on Friday, when Penix threw for 319 yards and a score. — Kyle Bonagura
Key player: DL T’Vondre Sweat
Sweat came back for a super senior year to try to help Texas complete its turnaround. It’s fair to say that decision has been a massive success, as Sweat became a force in the interior as the Big 12 defensive player of the year and helped the Longhorns win the conference championship. At 6-4 and 362 pounds, Sweat is literally a massive piece of the Texas defense. But as big as he is, he’s so quick and agile that he wreaks havoc even on passing plays, despite having just two sacks on the season, because he draws so much attention that it frees up other players, including 6-1, 308-pound Byron Murphy II, who plays next to Sweat and was the league’s defensive lineman of the year. In the conference championship, Sweat even added a touchdown reception and a Heisman pose. The man contains multitudes.
X factor: TE Ja’Tavion Sanders
With the addition of Adonai Mitchell as a receiving threat opposite Xavier Worthy, Sanders has seen a dip in his production, with a few nagging injuries also a factor. Last season, he caught 54 passes for 613 yards and 5 TDs; this year he settled for 31 catches, 502 yards and one score in the regular season. But at 6-4, 243, Sanders is a nightmare matchup for linebackers and a big target for quarterback Quinn Ewers. He can be a key outlet, particularly near the goal line, where Texas has struggled for most of the season, ranking 104th nationally in red zone offense. Sanders averaged 4.2 catches per game last year, down to 2.6 this year. Entering the Big 12 championship game, he’d caught five passes in a game only twice this year, and both times he went over 100 yards, including 114 yards against Alabama. But against Oklahoma State on Saturday, he had a season-high eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Sanders could be the cure for the Longhorns’ woes in the end zone if they keep him going, particularly with Worthy’s ankle injury suffered against OSU adding concern.
How Texas wins: The offensive line protects Quinn Ewers
The Longhorns have the heft along both lines to match up with pretty much anyone, but with Jonathon Brooks, who had 1,138 yards in 10 games, lost for the season, they’ll have to find a back to make the running game a factor. But it will take a strong performance from quarterback Quinn Ewers and the passing game to key the Texas attack. If the offensive line can protect Ewers and keep him upright, the Longhorns have the speed to make big plays on the outside and the offense has shown the potential to deliver when it’s needed most. — Dave Wilson
Michigan, Washington, Texas, Alabama reach CFP
The Wolverines and Huskies as undefeated conference champions were considered virtual shoo-ins to make the CFP. Michigan is in the playoff for the third straight year. Washington, on the other hand, has been in the CFP only once before, losing in the semifinals in the 2016 season.
The path to the playoff was a bit murkier for Texas and Alabama.
Texas is back in the running for the national championship after booking its first trip to the playoff. Led by quarterback Quinn Ewers, the Longhorns went 12-1 and won the Big 12 championship in their first appearance in the conference title game. Texas’ lone loss came at the hand of Oklahoma in the Red River rivalry game. Both schools will head to the SEC after this season, but the Longhorns already got an SEC boost this year. Texas notched perhaps the biggest win of the college football season by going on the road in September and beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama proved that one big win can sometimes make up for one early loss. The Crimson Tide are in the playoff a day after ending Georgia’s 29-game, 728-day winning streak with a 27-24 victory in the SEC championship game. Nick Saban’s squad faced challenges atypical for Alabama, losing at home to Texas in the second game of the season and otherwise scuffling through the early part of the schedule. Part of the issue was uncertainty at quarterback. Jalen Milroe started and finished the season as the team’s top QB, but both Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner were given chances to take control of the position in Tommy Rees’ first year as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Bama will now have a chance to win its fourth College Football Playoff national championship in the final year of the four-team format.
Alabama’s win Saturday ended Georgia’s pursuit of a third straight national championship. The Bulldogs had won 29 straight games, but Saturday’s ill-timed loss to Alabama in the SEC title game left Georgia on the outside looking in. As a result, the Bulldogs become the first No. 1 team in the penultimate CFP rankings to fall out of the top four after losing in Championship Week.
Florida State won its conference championship game after an undefeated regular season, but becomes the first unbeaten Power 5 champ to miss out on the CFP, a decision that rankled ACC commissioner Jim Phillips.
“It’s unfathomable that Florida State, an undefeated Power Five conference champion, was left out of the College Football Playoff,” Phillips said in a statement Sunday. “Their exclusion calls into question the selection process and whether the Committee’s own guidelines were followed, including the significant importance of being an undefeated Power Five conference champion. My heart breaks for the talented FSU student-athletes and coaches and their passionate and loyal fans. Florida State deserved better. College football deserved better.”
The committee seemed to focus on how competitive the Seminoles would be in the playoff without quarterback Jordan Travis, who suffered a season-ending leg injury in mid-November. FSU started backup Tate Rodemaker in its regular-season finale victory over Florida, but a concussion kept him out of the ACC title game. That forced coach Mike Norvell to go with freshman Brock Glenn on Saturday, a win over Louisville in which the Noles’ defense led the way.
Washington will play Texas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, while Michigan will face Alabama in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Prudential. Both semifinal games will be played on New Year’s Day and aired on ESPN.
The CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T will be played Monday, Jan. 8 on ESPN.
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