It's been more than a week since the Ohio State game ended in controversy. The Buckeyes are in the playoff along with Alabama, Clemson and Washington and it's going to be three of the most boringly lopsided games played all season, likely with the Crimson Tide coming out on top again.
Penn State, ranked 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings and on the heels of a 9-game winning streak and a 38-31 comeback win over Wisconsin to win the Big Ten Championship Game will head to the Rose Bowl to play USC on January 2.
And Michigan? Ranked 6 in the CFP and headed back to sunny Florida to play in the Orange Bowl against No. 11 Florida State.
On the one hand, for a team that started the season 9-0 and then lost two of its last three games to Iowa and Ohio State, this is a huge disappointment to not win the Big Ten and not reach the College Football Playoff. On the other hand, if you're going to get a consolation prize of a top-tier bowl game to play, the Orange Bowl is nothing to sneeze at.
The problem of course is that fans, fickle as they are cannot agree on just which one it is. Be thankful to be in the Orange Bowl against Florida State or be dejected and bitter about not being in the CFP, especially with the shoddy referees in the Ohio State game.
I'll make it clearer for you: Stop being dejected and bitter because what was justifiably defiant outrage on November 26 is now just whiny sour grapes on December 5.
Look, I was as angry as the most militant Michigan fan after the refs literally took a win away from the team with a blown 4th down call, adding to a game's worth of blown calls that day. It was most certainly an injustice that those players on that Michigan defense did all they could only to be robbed at the end.
But even in taking it that way, I couldn't ignore the three turnovers from the offense. A fumble that took away a Michigan touchdown at the goal line and two interceptions that led directly to 14 of Ohio State's 17 points in regulation. I couldn't ignore 91 yards rushing and a general inability to run the ball at the end of the game to get a few first downs and never even give the Buckeyes the ball back to tie it up. I couldn't ignore missed blocks from the offensive line and the running backs, dropped passes from the wide receivers and tight ends, all plays that would have rendered the bad referees null and void in the end.
Those are plays that as much as a lot of Michigan fans don't want to admit it, are ones that better teams make to take the referees out of the game and take control of it by force and in the end, that's what Michigan failed to do and they would tell you as much:
From Senior TE Jake Butt:
From Freshman LB Devin Bush:
From Junior LB/Everything Jabrill Peppers:
You see that? That's called accountability, and the Michigan players have taken it as they should. Sadly, a lot of Michigan fans are refusing to follow suit, calling for everything from boycotts of college football and the playoff altogether to calling for Michigan to leave the Big Ten in protest until the result of the OSU game is changed. Complete and utter lunacy from my beloved fanbase......and our team's got a game left in Miami against an ACC squad that knows a thing or two about being in the Top 10 and is only three years removed from its last national championship.
So what does the Orange Bowl ultimately mean for Michigan? It's an opportunity to end the season on a high note with a win over a top-ranked opponent, one that while suffering it's own disappointments this season in the ACC is still a more than formidable opponent to deal with in terms of talent and ability. It's a chance to get an 11th win, which technically would be a minimal improvement over last year's 10-3 record that everyone said was overachieving.
It would send off the seniors on high note after coming into Michigan Football on a rather low note, suffered through the hell of the 2014 season and were resurrected as star talent in the last two seasons under Jim Harbaugh and his staff. Many of those seniors are likely headed to the NFL, a few of them in the first round for sure, which would be quite the turnaround from where they were sitting just a few years ago.
It would be an opportunity for the freshmen and underclassmen to play in a big primetime bowl game and get them used to playing on grander stages in hopes of actually making the playoff within their careers wearing the winged helmet. A chance to show the nation one more time why they were good enough to be in that playoff this season, even though they left it to chance on two fateful Saturdays this season in Iowa City and Columbus.
There's a gargantuan amount of reasons why this Orange Bowl is not just a throwaway game for Michigan or our fanbase, and it's largely due to the fact that in spite of this season's disappointment, the light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting brighter for this program. What happened this season in terms of national expectations wasn't supposed to happen until Harbaugh's fourth or fifth year here and now before he's even coached a team full of mostly his recruits, he has put Michigan on the map once again nationally for recruiting and competition for the playoff. The expectations have risen in such a short of amount of time for this program when you consider how much work it was believed he and his coaches had to do to get this team as far away from 5-win seasons as possible, and he's already done that.
Think about the fact that a lot of fellow Michigan fans are irate about settling for the Orange Bowl when Jim Harbaugh has only been here for two years. Before that, we spent seven years in a fresh hell where we prayed to even make a bowl and not get embarrassed in it by anyone, and that was considered a fool's errand.
Think about that the next time you want a pound of flesh from the Big Ten or the CFP committee or think that the Orange Bowl isn't important, because I guarantee that there is a team full of seniors, underclassmen and coaches who will vehemently disagree with you and right now they are preparing for Jimbo Fisher and RB Dalvin Cook on December 30th, under the lights, in primetime.
Playoff or not, that still means a lot to them and it means a lot to me as a rational Michigan fan.