Michigan clinches College Football Playoff berth, giving Wolverines one more round to prove themselves

INDIANAPOLIS — Jack Harbaugh dug deep Friday night. The task for the patriarchal soul of Michigan football was to convey the gravity of the moment. Coming into the 2021 Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday night, the first question to be answered was whether the No. 2 Wolverines would be hungover.

There was no way, popular thought went, that Michigan could rise as high mentally and physically as it had the previous week against Ohio State. The argument could be made, after all the previous frustration against the Buckeyes, that the 42-27 decision was the Wolverines’ national championship.

That’s why the 82-year-old father of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the team Friday about finishing. He chose a forgettable fight by a forgettable former middleweight champion, Vito Antuofermo, to make his point.

In 1977, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart beat up on Antuofermo so bad, he broke his ribs. The The New York Times that night described Antuofermo as having “no physical attributes to brag about except he bled well.” But the then-24-year-old Italian immigrant pushed on through the pain.

Afterward, Antuofermo said, if he’d been hit in those ribs one more time, he would have quit. But he never did. In the fifth round that night, Antuofermo staggered Hart with a shot and eventually won by knockout.

“One more round. One more round!” said Jack Harbaugh, recounting his message to the Wolverines.

The 44-year-old message from another century was received in the moment. It took Saturday night for it to hit home. Michigan beat No. 13 Iowa 42-3 to ensure it one more round, that being in the College Football Playoff.

Coming into Saturday night’s raucous atmosphere at Lucas Oil Stadium, it could be argued the team with the most wins in college…


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