‘One-track mind’ has No. 1 Wolverines prepared for third CFP appearance 

Michigan is ready for the moment. 

For a third straight year, the Wolverines are back in the College Football Playoff as Big Ten Champions. They’re eager to return to the Playoff atmosphere that will be provided to them at the Rose Bowl, when No. 1 Michigan lines up to play No. 4 Alabama. 

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But the Wolverines haven’t had the most usual season or path taken to get here. Head coach Jim Harbaugh, who returned to the sidelines in the conference title game, was suspended for three games on two separate instances, once self-imposed by Michigan for alleged recruiting violations and a second time by the Big Ten for in-person scouting. 

But Harbaugh, like the Wolverines roster, is focused on one thing: the team mantra. 

“I wish I could peel back the layers of the onion and reveal something that was there. It’s just such a one-track mind,” Harbaugh said. “We have been about that one-track mind getting ourselves planning each week, preparing, practicing and then going out and executing, and the next game is always the is the goal. The next win, the next game. I wish I could tell you more. I wish I could tell you it was more than that. But it was just thanks to God for keeping us galvanized, thanks to our players, our staff for being such a joy to work with, and just appreciate that everybody adopted that one-track mind mindset.” 

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The Wolverines beat Ohio State for a third-straight year and won in Indianapolis to clinch the top spot in the Playoff this season, something they hadn’t achieved in their first two trips to the postseason. 

Michigan is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 51-45 loss to TCU a season ago and an early exit to eventual champion Georgia in 2021. 

Running back Blake Corum isn’t shying away from playing Alabama, saying “I love a good matchup and love a good challenge.” 

“It’s the moment I was born for, it feels like,” Corum said. “Being able to be the No. 1 team in the nation, first of all, play in the Rose Bowl against a great Alabama team, SEC versus the Big Ten, does it get bigger than this? I don’t know. So I’m super excited. I know we’re going to prepare like no other. Come that time we’ll be ready, but I’m super excited. I’m getting chills right now just thinking about it.” 

Corum remembers fondly the previous two trips to the CFP. He was held to 13 yards against the Bulldogs two years ago, and a knee injury forced him to miss the game against the Horned Frogs. 

But that doesn’t mean Corum doesn’t see a path toward a different outcome. 

“We need to take care of the small things,” Corum said. “The first year, that was our first time there, and you know, whatever, so we played a great Georgia team. I feel like then we were just happy we won the Big Ten Championship. Then last year, we lost to TCU. We didn’t execute at the highest level. We didn’t take care of the small things, and so this year, we must still be where our feet are, watch more film than ever and execute at the highest level.” 

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The Wolverines recognize their place in the CFP, as prestigious as the distinct No. 1 ranking is. They also recognize their opponent in Alabama, which got in the Playoff over 13-0 Atlantic Conference Champion No. 5 Florida State. 

“Unfortunate circumstance for FSU,” Michigan defensive lineman Kris Jenkins said. “That does suck. I feel for them.” 

Jenkins said Michigan preaches “to be the best you got to beat the best,” and he said Alabama has “been proving it.” 

The fourth-year defensive lineman said the Wolverines must “prepare a way lot more seriously” leading up to Jan. 1, 2024, when they play the Crimson Tide, and Jenkins said they’re “willing to take those steps.” 

Jenkins has also taken notice of Alabama’s offensive line, having paved the way for 2,245 rushing yards which are fifth-most in the SEC. 

“They got big boys in the trenches,” Jenkins said. “They play that trench ball. They can run the ball. And you know, we like to consider ourselves a physical team too. We got big boys. We got a lot of talent in the trenches. It’s definitely going to be a great game and we’re excited for that. That’s kind of the games we live for.” 

Like Harbaugh has said, Michigan has been built for moments that are coming up, such as its third chance to advance in the CFP against Alabama and silencing critics surrounding the entirety of its season. 

And Harbaugh doesn’t want anyone to be confused about his Wolverines team, either. 

“I want to say this, I mean, you talk about some of the — it’s a galvanized team,” Harbaugh said. “And some may think it’s galvanized by adversity. It’s not. It’s galvanized by choice.” 

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Michigan is set on playing the Crimson Tide, and Harbaugh said the Wolverines would have a week off in December before three full weeks of preparation for the Playoff. 

The Wolverines are ready to be zealous but not overzealous, anxious but not nervous and prepared — but not bound for an early exit this time around. 

“We played Alabama before, haven’t beaten them. We played Georgia before, haven’t beaten them. So we know it’s going to take our best,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to have to play really good but before that we’re going to have to plan, we’re going to have to practice and get in the position to execute against really good football teams.”