All-Time Michigan: 1997 Wolverines


Michigan vs. Ohio State: As No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan prepare to square off in a battle of unbeatens, we started wondering which school has the best team in the history of a rivalry that SportsNation voters ranked as the best in college football. ESPN.com senior college football writer Ivan Maisel narrowed the field to four teams from each school, but the rest is up to you. All this week, leading up to Saturday's game, your votes will determine which team is the best from each school, and ultimately, which team is the best in the history of the rivalry.

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No. 2 Seed: 1997 Michigan Wolverines

The 1997 Michigan Wolverines faced a Big Ten challenge that their predecessors had never confronted: Penn State. And a very good Penn State, at that. Beating the Nittany Lions, ranked third at the time, was one of the biggest hurdles overcome in a season in which the Wolverines beat seven ranked teams on the way to a perfect season and the national championship.

In his third season as coach of the Wolverines, Lloyd Carr faced some pressure after back-to-back seasons in Ann Arbor with four losses. But with two-way threat Charles Woodson anchoring a stout defense, and talent in abundance on offense, Carr had the right tools for the task.

Woodson ultimately won the Heisman, but in some ways it was a recognition of the team's entire defense. The Wolverines allowed just 222 yards per game of total offense, their lowest total since 1978. Opponents mustered just 89 yards per game on the ground, the program's stiffest run defense since 1971. All in all, opponents scored just 12 touchdowns against Michigan's defense all season.

Not that the team had any difficulty scoring points. Aside from Woodson dabbling on offense, the Wolverines had Brian Griese behind an offensive line that included three All-Big Ten performers. Oh yeah, they also had a guy named Tom Brady holding a clipboard on the sideline.

Playing its last four games against ranked teams, including No. 4 Penn State and No. 3 Ohio State, the 1997 Wolverines proved themselves under the toughest of conditions.