97 National Champs in 2014 Playoff

Submitted by maizedNblued on December 11th, 2014 at 2:52 PM
A buddy of mine and I were BS'ing about whether or not the 97 National Championship team could go undefeated in the B1G in 2014, win this year's conference championship then make the Final Four and presumably win it. Definitely was an interesting convo so I figured I'd pose it to everyone out there on MGoBlue. This is my take:

Anyone who tried straight downhill running against us was going into the teeth of our defense. Our front four and rotating subs were some of the best that M has ever had. Very seldomly did we ever have to blitz with our linebackers because the front got so much pressure. It allowed us to sit back in tight coverage and ball hawk all day.

Defensively, the only issue I ponder is how our defense would have stacked up against today's spread offenses. The closest thing we faced to a spread that year was Washington State but their offense was more predicated on the pass. Today's spread is more geared towards the run so it would have been interesting to see how we would have faired.

Our offense was adequet enough to make up for the lack of major explosiveness. Griese was as competenta QB as anyone could ask for. His pin-point accuracy that year was deadly and although he didn't have a plethora of deep threats, he selectively used Streets, Shaw and Tuman very well. He was also very well at spreading the ball around that year and when the opportunity presented itself he wasn't afraid to take a shot downfield. The strength was obviously the running game as we had three highly capable backs that year including a young A-Train. We also had arguably the best offensive line in our history and one of the most unsung heroes in FB Chris "follow me" Floyd.

My issue with matching them up to today's defenses is zone schemes have evolved so much nowadays that I wonder how BG would have handled it. Our running game and play-action tricks still would have led the way but I wonder how our offense would fair when they're forced to throw the ball against a much more sound zone scheme that many teams employ today. Also, with the exception of Streets, we didn't really have any burners to stretch the field.

So let's take a look at the 97 squad going up against the 2014 schedule:

Applachian State - No contest. I doubt we would have put up 52 points like this year but I also doubt the 97 unit would have given up 14 to App. State. In fact, I have a hard time believing they would have crossed the 50-yard line. WIN 30-0

Notre Dame - This is where it gets interesting. Gholson created problems for us now and I'd have to imagine he would have created problems for us then. We didn't face anyone in 97 with quite his ability but in 1998 with many of the same defensive players, we squared up against Donovan McNabb and that didn't end too well for us. Our speed may have slowed ND's potent offense and Gholson down but they still would have put up some points. The advantage I see us having is that we didn't turn the ball over in 97 and turnovers were a huge problem in the 2014 contest. Although playing in South Bend would have been a challenge, I just don't see us giving them short fields like we did this year. Our offense controls the clock and produces just enough 1st downs to sneak out of the dance with the chic. WIN 24-20

Miami - No challenge, no let down from this physically imposing and confident team. Surprisingly was a decent game in the 1st half this year but the 97 squad would have worn them down very quickly. Miami would have had a ton of early 3-and-outs and M would have grinded away at the heart of their defense. I could see all three of our backs going for 100 yards each. WIN 34-0

Utah - This is what separates the 97 squad from any Wolverine team in the past 7 years - their resiliency. They were the toughest sons of bitches on the football field. They would never have allowed a semi-quasi hurricane to deviate them from a severe beat down of an opponent like this year's team did. The 97 squad would have been itching to get back out on the field after a lengthy two-hour rain delay and showcase their ability. The Utes would never have been able to sustain any of their drives like they did this year be ause we were so good at getting off the field on 3rd downs in 1997. Turnovers were a major issue with us in this 2014 game, something we just didn't do in 97. And even if all else failed and the Utes somehow managed to stay with our beloved NC team, if our 97 squad would have witnessed someone else striking the Heisman pose in our stadium, the red in Utah's uniforms would have quickly began to look like the Scarlett from OSU and it would have been go-time. WIN 27-9

Minnesota/Rutgers/Penn State - this is where it gets a bit jokey as none of these team's offenses would have been able to move the ball against our front 7. For as solid as the Gophers have been under Jerry Kill, you can't expect to run roughshod over the 97 squad's run defense. It just wouldn't happen. For as great as Gary Nova looked against our 2014 defense, guys like Woodson, Ray, Weathers, Hendricks, Peterson, Whitley (holy shit we were loaded) would have picked off any ball that somehow made it out the backfield as Nova would have been throwing from his ass from the amount of heat he would have felt. We probably would have picked off anywhere from six to twenty passes of his. Penn State would have been laughable because I'm not sure they would gained a yard with their offense against our defense.

Minny - WIN 31-13

New Jerz - WIN 40 -3

PSU - WIN 34 - negative 5

Michigan State - the 97 team would have found out quickly that this ain't your Grandmomma's Spartans as this probably would have been something as close to WW3 as you can find. There would have been body blows, uppercuts and right hooks back and forth for 60 minutes, possibly more. The team that compares to the 2014 Spartans in 1997 isIowa. That Hawkeye team had similar components - tough run game, capable QB, disciplined, in your face attitude, but probably not as good a defense as today's Sparty.That Iowa team gave us fits as so would have this year's MSU team. Griese would have had to come up big against a formidable D-line so check downs to his running backs and his play action deception would have came in big here. Our D would certainly be tested with one of the best RB's in Langford. I think our depth would have helped us a lot in this game as we had many moving parts that season on the defensive side of the ball. We probably would have bent a bit but I don't think we would have broke. WIN 20-17

Indiana/Northwestern/Maryland - this stretch would give the 97 team its first real life look at some type of spread offenses just without the personnel or talent. I can see our 97 squad coming away with one question from each game:

Indy - They lead the B1G in total offense? WIN 37-6

NW - If this is Northwestern then why do they have 5 WR's on the field? WIN 33-3

Maryland - Who is this team? WIN 39-7

Ohio State - Interesting. Challenging. 97 defense meet Urban Meyer. The brawn of the Wolverines verse the brains of a great coach. Uncharted territory for us back then as we never faced a more calculating mastermind. The zone read would have been an issue for us because quite frankly it didn't exist back then. We were a very disciplined team so I have to imagine we would have maintained good gap integrity and our DB's wouldn't have bought on any play actions off of the zone read options. I'd have to say that this would have been our greatest challenge. Our offense would have A.) controlled the clock like no other and play keep away or B.) keep pace by throwing the ball downfield. We would have given up points to the genius coach but for shits and giggles let's say WIN 31-30

Wisconsin (B1G Championship) - Ummmmm yeah. I have a feeling that the Badgers circa 1997 is EXACTLY the same as 2014. I wouldn't be surprised if the average height, weight and 40-yard dash times of their roster is exactly the same as it is now. Beefy guys up front, solid but unspectacular QB, and an electric RB. They gave us a game in 97 and I imagine they'd give us a game in 2014. We beat them back then and we'd beat them now. WIN 24-13

That brings us to the final four of ALABAMA, OREGON, FLORIDA STATE and MICHIGAN. The SEC wasn't as overhyped and as blown as it is today but it certainly is more talented and advanced. Oregon would have been a major issue for us simply because of Marcus Marriotta and Florida State well.....is....Florida State. As much as I am in love with the 1997 National Champs, I think their magical climb up the mountain ends in the semi-final to the Crimson Tide. Too much size, too much speed and too many playmakers for us to handle. Although how fun would it have been to see Amari Cooper going up against Charles Woodson??? The game would be an absolute dog-fight and by no means so I think we would be over-matched but I see us losing something like 27-21.

Happy Holidays and yes I was bored!

Comments

ijohnb

December 11th, 2014 at 2:57 PM ^

that is a lot of words.  The 97 team goes undefeated in the regular season against the teams we played this year.  It truly was one of the best defenses of all time in college football.

The playoff, who knows, I think we beat OSU(obviously because we beat them in the regular season), the rest of the teams it would be a toss up.

I know one thing for sure though.  1997 Michigan beats 1997 Nebraska.  And it aint that close.

HarbaughorBust

December 11th, 2014 at 3:02 PM ^

As good as Oregons offense is this year, the 97 defensive line would cave in Oregons offensive line.

Just beat them like Stanford has beat them over the years.

Michigan's toughest opponent would be Alabama but we would match up wonderfully with them. Stack the box and leave Woodson on Cooper 1 on 1.

Then again I'm bias.

ruraljuror

December 11th, 2014 at 3:03 PM ^

I remember back in 2005 ESPN did a bracket where they took the national champs of the last 10 years ( I believe that was the timeframe) and pitted them against that year's USC team. Mark May made a comment along the lines of 'Charles Woodson the NFL player would have not been able to cover Dwayne Jarrett...' I don't know why this post reminds me of that but yeah..........Mark May f*cking door knob. Oh and we beat every team out there this season. Decision based on number of pros on both sides of the ball the '97 team had. We were basically like the Alabama squad that throttled ND a few years ago for the title.

Gandalf the White

December 11th, 2014 at 3:05 PM ^

I think our 97 defense closes down the spread. Our RR offenses were world-beaters until we came up against 97-type defenses. Close the running/cutback lanes and force the "running" quarterback to throw and its good night... and that is precisely what the 97 defense was uber-capable of doing. We had a certain cornerback who could shut down half of the field as well.

Finance-PhD

December 11th, 2014 at 3:06 PM ^

How many NFL draftees did the 97 team face? That will give a gauge roughly on how tough that schedule was. You can look at 97 Nebraska as well and see who they really had to go trough.

Then consider how they will do against teams that have put 7-8 guys in the draft each year.

lilpenny1316

December 11th, 2014 at 3:48 PM ^

ND turned out to not be so good.  Same for Colorado.  And the B1G went 2-5 in bowls that year.  The only other win was Purdue, who we didn't play.  I think that's the main reason we shared with Nebraska.  But the B1G was still putting out the most or second most NFLers in comparison with other conferences.

The_Mad Hatter

December 11th, 2014 at 3:10 PM ^

was like a brick wall.  Spread or no, we absolutely go undefeated.  And OSU doesn't put up 30 either.

And are we still playing Bama in the first round?  Since we're the only undefeated team and naturally ranked #1?

Blue_by_U

December 11th, 2014 at 3:08 PM ^

that is all...he was a complete game changing force on defense that gave an already good unit greatness...he allowed guys to stay in space and make plays. having coached against him in his high school days, he was a game changer plain and simple. Just his threat alone changed how you went about play selection...he was that omnipresent.

SituationSoap

December 11th, 2014 at 3:09 PM ^

Is the 1997 Defense playing like it's still 1997? If they are, OSU's spread would decimate them. The Read Option wasn't invented until 1998, but its invention in 1998 caused Tulane (TULANE!) to finish 12-0, a record for Conference USA. Shaun King set the NCAA record for QB efficiency in a season (setting a record QB rating of 183+, which wouldn't be matched until 2006).

 

I'm going to laugh out of the room anyone who suggests that the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes don't put up at least 60 points on a team that has literally never even heard of a scrape exchange. 

SECcashnassadvantage

December 11th, 2014 at 3:13 PM ^

I can tell you're young. The big ten blows and we had half a team full of pros. We had a spy on running QBs named Charles Woodson. These games wouldn't be close. Alabama would have a shot but our pro QB Griese wasn't that bad. We played terrible against Washington State in the bowl game and still won. They had a pro QB as well playing in their own conference.

bjk

December 11th, 2014 at 4:49 PM ^

the 1899 University of Chicago team played its 2014 schedule?

They wouldn't get to 16 wins, for one thing.

And they never heard of the forward pass. Or down markers.

And if they only got 5 points for a touchdown, it would make it harder to compete with today's teams.

But they were tough.

I think it depends on whether it's the 1899 team as it was then, or the actual members of that team as they are today.

Michology 101

December 11th, 2014 at 3:25 PM ^

I couldn’t read it all, either. Though I did get where you were going with the overall discussion. People can have interesting opinions on these types of sports subjects, but it’s really difficult to say when you’re trying to judge totally different eras.

It’s not just about adjusting to the spread, which could’ve been tough, but no teams were even really running UPTEMPO offensives back then.

Who’s to say how well our '97 coaches and players would’ve substituted in and out against some of these fast pace offensives of today.

Alabama always has a good defensive and even they sometimes struggle to stop up tempo offensives, like Auburn.

mtlcarcajou

December 11th, 2014 at 3:25 PM ^

Can't see them running on our front; and defo cannot see Sims picking that team apart.

Woodson rubs Cooper out. We win, then annihilate the next up.

Well guess we'll never know, unless someone Maddens this.

LSAClassOf2000

December 11th, 2014 at 3:30 PM ^

Our running game and play-action tricks still would have led the way but I wonder how our offense would fair when they're forced to throw the ball against a much more sound zone scheme that many teams employ today. Also, with the exception of Streets, we didn't really have any burners to stretch the field.

I seem to remember Jerame Tuman having a couple nice games that year as well, but we didn't have any one putting up numbers like you'd find on teams that employ an Air Raid or passing spread type offense because that not what we ran obviously. We had a pretty balanced offense in 1997 though, and I would expect a much more controlled passing game if they faced a modern zone defense of any caliber. I do sort of wonder what Griese would have looked like against State's Cover 4. That would be an interesting game.

DemetriusBrown

December 11th, 2014 at 3:44 PM ^

Team was pretty good. Had the best modern day Michigan player of all time. Offense was workmanlike. Griese didn't throw a 50 yard pass until Streets in the Rose Bowl. We know how good the D was. Think they would have crushed this years big ten but even having to ponder such a thing sucks.

bjk

December 11th, 2014 at 4:31 PM ^

a that the OP intended to put 1997 CFB teams through 2014-era bracketology process.

In other words, 1997 UM would finally get to settle it on the field vs. 1997 Nebraska.

This is one thought experiment I've been unconsciously seduced into from time to time.

I think Judgement Day UM would have vaporized the Nebraska team that showed up to play Missouri on 11-8-97, but not so sure the Rose Bowl UM that beat WSU by 5 would have done the same to the Nebraska team that crushed Peyton Manning 42-17.

If 1997 had had a 4-team playoff, would UM be the undisputed MNC of that year? I think this is a more interesting question.