Story Poster
Photo by Kirthmon F. Dozier/USA TODAY NETWORK
Texas A&M Football

Around CFB: Michigan faces toughest test amid sign-stealing scandal

November 7, 2023

Statistically, everything signals Michigan will prevail in its first true test.

But can the Wolverines do it without the signals?

Of course, the big story in college football this season is the scandal in which Michigan is accused of using technology — and a well-placed mole, Connor Stalions — to steal the signs of opposing teams.

And, of course, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh denied knowledge of any scheme.

Still, the Big Ten office has warned Michigan disciplinary action could be taken. Anything short of disqualification — if Michigan is guilty — probably won’t faze the Wolverines.

Nothing has so far.

“What I've seen from our players, what they do, no matter what happens, what it is, what emotion they're feeling … They just work,” Harbaugh said. “They want to find some work, do some work. Something could be in their personal lives, something could be in the game of football or school, some kind of stressor or whatever, you just go to work.”

The Wolverines have worked over opponents. They’re undefeated. They’re zeroing in on the College Football Playoffs. They’re fine with a slap on the wrist — or maybe somewhere even more painful — if that’s the cost of a national championship.

After joining Michigan’s staff as an analyst in 2022, Stalions (right) resigned on Friday.

So would any other program.

However, Michigan is also untested.

Admittedly, the Wolverines look the part of one of the best teams in the nation. They average 40.7 points to rank fifth in the country. They allow an average of just 6.7 points to lead the nation in scoring defense. They’ve won every game by at least 24 points.

But they’re racehorses — Stalions, perhaps? — in a Big Ten stable of plow horses.

Three conference wins were over teams with losing records. Two more were over Big Ten West division pipsqueaks Nebraska (5-4) and Minnesota (5-4).

Indeed, Michigan’s best Power 5 victory was 31-7 over (6-3) Rutgers, which has also lost to (5-4) Wisconsin, which also lost to (3-6) Indiana. You get the picture.

Michigan next travels to face Penn State (8-1), which only lost on the road at Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions haven’t really won a big game, either. But if the Wolverines win at Happy Valley, they can at least rebut the criticism they haven’t beaten a good opponent.

Maybe they can’t win, though. A victory may still be clouded by the sign-stealing controversy. A loss — at least to some detractors — would be proof Michigan has benefitted from cheating.

Michigan won’t worry about that just yet, though.

Harbaugh has a simple message for his team: “Just be good. Be good. It'll be about us. It will be about how we're playing, and we'll have to be good to win the game.”

Heisman Watch (If my ballot was due today)

1. Michael Penix, Jr., Washington, QB: The nation’s leading passer had a solid showing in a 52-42 victory over USC. Penix passed for 256 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a score. Overall, Penix has 3,201 yards and 26 touchdowns for the undefeated Huskies.

2. Jayden Daniels, LSU, QB: Though knocked out of the Tigers’ 42-28 loss to Alabama, Daniels again showed his value. He passed for 219 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 163 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown dash. That increased his nation-leading total offense numbers. He has passed for 2,792 yards and rushed for 684 for a total of 3,476.

3. Jordan Travis, Florida State, QB: The surging Seminole quarterback posted season-high passing yardage for the second straight week. He threw for 360 yards and a touchdown in a 24-7 victory over Pitt. That after throwing for 359 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Wake Forest. Travis now has 2,469 passing yards and 19 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He has also rushed for 190 yards and seven touchdowns for the unbeaten Seminoles.

After rushing for 137 yards in the final Bedlam game, Gordon was carried off the field in Stillwater following a 27-24 win.

4. Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State, RB: The nation’s leading rusher with 1,225 yards has been on an absolute tear. He had only 109 yards through the first three games. Since then, Gordon has rushed for at least 121 yards in every game. He has been especially productive since October. In the last five games, he has rushed for 995 yards and 10 touchdowns. That includes 138 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 27-24 victory over Oklahoma. He has also caught 22 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown.

5. Bo Nix, Oregon, QB: Nix threw four touchdown passes and accumulated 386 yards in a 63-19 blowout of Cal last week. That’s the fifth game in which he’s passed for at least 290 yards. Nix is completing 78.1 percent of his passing attempts for 2,723 yards and 25 touchdowns with just 2 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 5 touchdowns in leading the (8-1) Ducks.

Predicted Playoff Participants

1. Georgia: The Bulldogs aren’t always dominant, but they just keep winning. Last week, they passed a big test against Missouri. This week, they face another big test with Ole Miss.

2. Michigan: The unbeaten Wolverines are relatively untested. They’ll get tested at Penn State on Saturday.

3. Florida State: If the unbeaten Seminoles get past Miami on Saturday as expected, they should finish the regular season 12-0. The other remaining opponents are North Alabama and Florida.

4. Washington: The Huskies will have to work hard to earn a perfect record. Utah, Oregon State and rival Washington State remain. A rematch with Oregon (or USC) in the Pac-12 championship game is highly likely.

Games to Watch

No. 2 Michigan at No. 9 Penn State: Not only is Michigan facing its toughest opponent this season, but Penn State still has championship aspirations.

No. 8 Alabama at Kentucky: Could this be a trap? The Tide follows up an emotional clash with LSU by going on the road to face a solid opponent.

No. 13 Utah at No. 5 Washington: Washington has a chance for a dream season. Utah has a way of providing a rude awakening, though.

No. 10 Ole Miss at No. 1 Georgia: Georgia’s hopes for a third straight national title are intact, but Ole Miss is no pushover.

USC at No. 6 Oregon: Both have great offenses, but Oregon’s defense isn’t bad. The winner won’t officially get into the Pac-12 title game, but its chances will be greatly enhanced.

Editor’s note: This story was written and published before Tuesday night’s release of the second College Football Playoff rankings. Rankings in this story are from the latest AP Poll.

Discussion from...

Around CFB: Michigan faces toughest test amid sign-stealing scandal

2,189 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 6 mo ago by aeon-ag
How long do you want to ignore this user?
How long do you want to ignore this user?
If these signs are that easy to "steal" then they deserve to be stolen!!
Page 1 of 1
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.