Adversity Proves the Mettle of Michigan Wolverines as National Title Contender

Sam QuinnContributor IIISeptember 8, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 07: Devin Gardner #12 of the Michigan Wolverines escapes the rush of cornerback Bennett Jackson #2 the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second quarter at Michigan Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

You all watched the game. You saw what I saw. Michigan leads by 14. Devin Gardner scrambles. Devin Gardener is almost sacked for a safety. Devin Gardener, instead, throws a pick-six out of desperation. 

Seems like a tough obstacle to overcome mentally? It only got worse. The Wolverines went three-and-out on their next series. Then, Matt Wile shanks a punt. It's Notre Dame's ball at midfield, and 50 yards away from a tie game, just like that.

And then, the Wolverines woke up. A strong defensive stand kept the Irish out of the end zone. Then the offense comes back on the field. Fitzgerald Toussaint leads a long drive down the field that eventually ends up in a touchdown pass from Gardner. It's 41-30 Wolverines, and the game's seemingly over—confirmed on a later interception.

Again, you all saw what I saw. And I'm assuming you were just as impressed as I was.

Every national championship team has to face as many mental tests as physical ones. You have to be able to overcome adversity to win the crystal football.

Alabama has had LSU test them, Ole Miss prompted Tim Tebow's famous promise, and as Michigan fans surely want to forget, Ohio State spent their entire 2002 national championship season on life support before finally beating Miami to win the whole thing.

Michigan was tested in the same way Saturday night, and the Wolverines passed with flying colors. Gardner proved he can come back from big mental mistakes. The defense proved it can step up and defend a lead against a strong offense. Most of all, the Wolverines, as a whole, proved that they're tough.

Three key Wolverines (Jeremy Gallon, Taylor Lewan, Devin Funchess) left the game in the fourth quarter with injuries. All of them came back and played through the pain. Gardner came back from the mental pain of a huge mistake. 

We knew Michigan had the talent to go far. Now we know the Wolverines have the mental fortitude to challenge even the best teams in the Big Ten and beyond. Ohio State may be the most ballyhooed team in the conference, but Michigan just proved that it, too, deserves a spot at the contender table.