What a season it has been in Ann Arbor. 

The Michigan Wolverines were without head coach Jim Harbaugh for the first three games of the 2023 college football season after the program self-imposed a punishment amid an NCAA investigation into alleged violations during the COVID-19 recruiting dead period. 

Michigan went 3-0 without Harbaugh. 

Then the sign-stealing scandal that took the sport by storm resulted in Harbaugh missing the final three games of the regular season after the Big Ten suspended him. 


The Wolverines again went 3-0 without Harbaugh. 

And now Michigan faces Alabama in its third consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff with Harbaugh on the sidelines. 

Let’s take a look at a few Michigan players to watch as the Wolverines prepare for Alabama in the CFP. 

For a few weeks during the regular season, J.J. McCarthy was in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race. Heading into week 9, McCarthy and Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. were the betting favorites, according to Caesars Sportsbook. 

And while McCarthy’s Heisman hype quickly faded, the Michigan quarterback is known for the most important stat in sports — winning. 

McCarthy is 25-1 since taking over as the starter in 2022 and has the Wolverines in the CFP for the third straight season, his second as the starter. 

McCarthy has not had to be great for Michigan for the Wolverines to win, but he’ll have to have one of his better games to defeat a red-hot Alabama team


In Michigan’s first seven games. McCarthy threw for 14 touchdowns with an average of 10.6 yards per pass attempt, according to The Athletic. In the final six games, McCarthy threw just five touchdowns and averaged 7.7 yards per pass attempt. 

In his first appearance in the CFP last season against TCU, McCarthy threw two pick-six interceptions. He’s made it clear that anything less than a national championship this season will be considered a failure. 

“It’s one of those things where if we’re not the ones at the top of the mountain at the end of it, like, we don’t think it’s a successful season,” McCarthy said, according to Fox Sports. “But, at the end of the day, it’s hard to win 13 games, and we’ll appreciate it one day if that happens.”

The matchup between Michigan and Alabama will be decided in the trenches, and running back Blake Corum will have a big say in whether the Wolverines win their first CFP game. 

Corum returned to Michigan for his senior season after missing out on last year’s playoff due to knee surgery. 

“It sucked,” Corum said, according to On3. “I was there for my teammates, I was trying to tell them what I saw on the field. I wanted to be out there. I wanted to be out there trying to make a play, trying to make a play for Michigan. Finally, 365 days later, we’re here almost. 

“Super excited to be back in the College Football Playoffs, playing a great team. And being on the field with my teammates instead of on the sideline on crutches.”


Corum led the country with 24 rushing touchdowns, going over 1,000 yards on the ground for the second straight year. 

If Corum can get going on the ground against Alabama, the passing game should open up for McCarthy. 

The Michigan offensive line took home the Joe Moore Award for the best line in college football in 2021 and 2022.

And while the Washington Huskies’ offensive line took home the award in 2023, Michigan’s big guys up front were certainly in the conversation. 

Three Michigan offensive linemen were first-team All-Big Ten — LaDarius Henderson, Drake Nugent and Zak Zinter. Two others — Karsen Barnhart and Trevor Keegan – made second-team All-Big Ten. The Wolverines will be without Zinter in the CFP after he injured a leg against Ohio State

Michigan will be facing an Alabama defense that gets after the quarterback, sacking the quarterback 38 times in 2023, tied for ninth most in the country.