Michigan wins national championship in Houston as era comes to an end in college football – Houston Public Media

Mark Norris/Houston Public Media

Confetti rains down on Michigan players and coaches during the trophy presentation after the Wolverines’ 34-13 win over Washington.

HOUSTON — A major energy conference drew its last breath Monday night at NRG Stadium.

While the 2023 Michigan team earned college football immortality with its title game victory, the Pac-12 Conference as we know it died when the clock struck zero. Washington, a charter member of the league, played the final game representing the conference in its current configuration.

To live forever against the end.

Michigan got off to a fast start and held at least a touchdown lead for most of the game, then built an insurmountable lead with two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win its first national title since 1997.

Michigan racked up more than 300 yards rushing, including a one-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes left by RB Blake Corum, to spark a frenzy among the Michigan faithful who traveled and filled the home of the Houston Texans.

“It couldn’t have gone better. [The season] it went exactly the way we wanted it to go to win every game. The issues off the field, we’re innocent and we stood strong and we stood tall because we knew we were innocent,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game when asked about the alleged sign-stealing scandal that rocked the team and the sport.

“It went exactly the way we wanted it to go. It went exactly the way we wanted it to go.”

CONNECTED: College Playoff National Championship coverage

NRG Stadium was an oddly fitting venue for the title game if one knows their college football history. This is the second time the city of Houston has hosted the end of a major conference power in the sport.

Just 1.2 miles away, Rice Stadium was the site of the last game of the Southwestern Conference in 1995. Rice vs. Houston was the end. The death of a once proud championship that could not survive the continuous changes of the sport.

There are parallels between the demise of the SWC and the Pac-12. Both leagues were split from competing conferences after concerns about viability and television deals destabilized historic partnerships. Some schools survived. Others indulged in smaller conferences and irrelevance.

Washington players console each other

Mark Norris/Houston Public Media

Washington players console each other after losing in the national title game.

Washington got a life raft for the Big Ten. Yes, Michigan vs. Washington will be a conference game next season.

“I’m proud of our performance in Pac-12 football, West Coast football, because I’ll say it right now, I think our conference, what we’ve gone through every week is as tough as any team can have had in the whole country,” Washington head coach Cullen DeBoer said after the game.

The Huskies lost Monday, but they won realignment roulette and got to live in college football’s updated centralized power structure. Death prevented.

“It’s sad to see the Pac-12 have this time right now that we’re ending. But I’m just glad we represented West Coast football, the Pac-12, the way we did this year,” DeBoer said.

CONNECTED: Live blog of the 2024 National Championship Game

Next season will also be the first of an expanded playoff — from four to 12 teams. More death for the four-team playoffs that have existed for the past ten years, and more changes.

But after the confetti fell and he had a minute to take it in, even the head coach of college football’s newest immortal team acknowledged his own mortality and how much he wants to be remembered.

“Someday, when they throw dirt on me, if somebody who praises me, who was on that team or any of my teammates when I played at Michigan, if they would just say, ‘He was a Michigan man,’ that would mean everything. It’s going to mean everything to me,” Harbaugh said.

Coach Jim Harbaugh and his brother pose for a picture on the field after the national championship victory. (Photo: Mark Norris/Houston Public Media)

Michigan QB JJ McCarthy gets a hug after winning the national title.

Michigan players pose with the front page celebrating the team’s national championship. (Photo: Mark Norris/Houston Public Media)

Confetti rains over Michigan during the trophy presentation. (Photo: Mark Norris/Houston Public Media)

Michigan cheerleaders make confetti angels after school wins national championship. (Photo: Mark Norris/Houston Public Media)

Confetti on the field after Michigan was presented with the trophy for winning the national championship. (Photo: Mark Norris/Houston Public Media)

National Anthem before the title game. (Photo: Mark Norris/Houston Public Media)

Michigan players take the field. (Photo: Mark Norris/Houston Public Media)

NRG Stadium before the College Football Playoff National Championship game between the University of Washington and the University of Michigan on January 8, 2024. (Photo: Mark Norris/Houston Public Media)

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