CFP NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Michigan tops Alabama in overtime of Rose Bowl, clinches CFP Final appearance

Jan 1, 2024, 7:47 PM

J.J. McCarthy and Blake Corum spearheaded Michigan's attack which beat Alabama in the Rose Bowl. (P...

J.J. McCarthy and Blake Corum spearheaded Michigan's attack which beat Alabama in the Rose Bowl. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Blake Corum rushed for a 17-yard touchdown on the second snap of overtime, and top-seeded Michigan advanced to its first College Football Playoff championship game with a 27-20 victory over fourth-seeded Alabama in the Rose Bowl on Monday.

Michigan’s defense ended only the second overtime game in the 110 editions of the Rose Bowl when Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe was emphatically stopped for no gain when he attempted to sneak up the middle on fourth down from the Michigan 3.

Coach Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines (14-0) will play for their school’s first national title since 1997 against Washington or Texas on Jan. 8 in Houston, but only after a late comeback and a hair-raising finish to the Granddaddy of Them All.

Roman Wilson made a 4-yard TD catch with 1:34 left in regulation for the Wolverines, who hadn’t scored in the second half until that gritty 75-yard drive led by J.J. McCarthy.

Corum then needed only two snaps to score in the first overtime period, breaking tackles and spinning wildly on his second carry into the end zone.

Milroe connected with Jermaine Burton at the Michigan 3 on third-and-goal in overtime, and Alabama leaned on its quarterback’s athleticism on the final play call — but Milroe ran straight into a Michigan defense that was waiting for him.

Jase McClellan rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns for Alabama (12-2), which fell heartbreakingly short of the chance to play for Nick Saban’s seventh national title at the school. The Tide led 20-13 on Will Reichard’s 52-yard field goal with 4:41 to play, but their defense couldn’t preserve the lead.

McCarthy passed for 221 yards and three touchdowns for Michigan, earning the Offensive Player of the Game award. Milroe passed for 116 yards and rushed for 63 for the Tide, whose 11-game winning streak ended.

The Alabama defense also couldn’t step up at key moments to stop Corum, who caught an early TD pass and then rushed for 83 yards, capped by his overtime heroics. Corum has been at Michigan for three straight appearances in the CFP, but he barely played two years ago when the Wolverines were routed by Georgia, and he was injured when they were upset by TCU last year.

The Wolverines also survived a handful of potentially disastrous mistakes that undercut their long stretches of superiority in this matchup — including a muffed punt by Jake Thaw, who was tackled at the Michigan 1 with 43 seconds left in regulation and barely avoided what would have been one of the most spectacular safeties in football history.

Michigan is the sixth straight No. 1 seed to win its semifinal game in the CFP’s 10 years of existence.

Michigan is one win away from reaching the primary goal set by Harbaugh when he returned to his alma mater in 2015 after his meteoric coaching career flamed out with the 49ers. The former Wolverines quarterback was determined to restore his school to national prominence and dominance, but he won no Big Ten titles in his first six seasons amid frustration from a fan base that expected things to happen sooner.

Michigan has been elite since 2021, winning three straight conference titles and advancing to three Playoffs. The Wolverines lost their first two semifinals, but they’ve finally reached their sport’s biggest stage after their second consecutive unbeaten regular season.

And they did it this season with Harbaugh serving a pair of three-game suspensions — the second over allegations of sign-stealing and in-game scouting.

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Michigan tops Alabama in overtime of Rose Bowl, clinches CFP Final appearance