It was a wild and wooly Saturday in college football, but the Michigan Wolverines clearly didn’t get the memo. That’s OK. Even though it was gritty Big Ten Conference football at its best, the Wolverines were never interested in style points.
They just wanted enough points — period.
That’s what Michigan got. Wilton Speight tossed a tie breaking 46-yard touchdown pass to Amara Darboh midway through the fourth quarter and that was enough to lift the No. 4-ranked Wolverines past the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers 14-7 in a game that would’ve fit nicely with leather helmets and black-and-white newsreel footage.
It was a throwback.
Come to think of it, coach Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines have been a throwback program all season long.
A throwback to when Michigan was always a factor on the national scene.
Michigan (5-0) hasn’t been this type of national-championship threat since 2006, when the Wolverines went into Ohio State as the nation’s No. 2-ranked unbeaten team and lost a classic 42-39 decision.
Ever since, it seems, Michigan has been playing catch-up. Rich Rodriguez’s three-season tenure was a lost cause. Brady Hoke debuted with an 11-2 Sugar Bowl champion, but that momentum quickly disappeared.
Harbaugh’s arrival last season signaled a change, a 10-3 record, a rousing 41-7 bowl-game victory against Florida and now five straight wins, most featuring a take-no-prisoners approach.
UM has commanded our full attention for months now.
It’s mostly because of Harbaugh’s outrageousness, whether it’s tweaking other coaches, his round-the-world tour of satellite camps or his sometimes cryptic statements. The Wolverines get noticed.
But now it’s time to focus on Ann Arbor for other reasons.
Michigan is really, really good.
The offense was OK against Wisconsin — three missed field-goal attempts, if made, might have created a different game — but the defense was outstanding.
Wisconsin (4-1), which came in with victories against top 10-ranked teams LSU and Michigan State, struggled mightily. The Badgers managed just 156 total yards. Redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook, so poised against the Spartans, was forced into a 9-for-25, 88-yard passing day.
In a last gasp, a fourth-and-10 play from Wisconsin’s 8-yard line, Hornibrook’s desperation pass was intercepted by a leaping Michigan defender Jourdan Lewis.
Lewis pulled it in one-handed.
“Just keep winning … we think we have a championship season,’’ Lewis said afterward.
Can the Wolverines win a national title? You bet they can.
There are Big Ten speed bumps galore — at Rutgers, Illinois, Maryland, at fast-fading Iowa, Indiana.
There’s a bounce-back rematch at Michigan State on Oct. 29 — remember the game-ending punt attempt that went horribly wrong for Michigan?
Of course, there’s the Nov. 26 regular-season finale at Ohio State.
Ten years later, unbeaten Michigan at unbeaten Ohio State? It could happen again. Don’t be surprised if it happens.
If it does, there’s also an excellent opportunity for Michigan AND Ohio State to reach the College Football Playoff.
That’s wild and wooly enough.
UM can outscore opponents. It can also win cards-to-the-vest defensive struggles, the type that was on display on Saturday in Ann Arbor.
It was a throwback kind of game.
It was another indication that Michigan is back where it belongs.