1975 team: Led by a Freshman Sensation
After three consecutive Big Ten co-Championships but no bowl trips, the 1975 team was primed to qualify for a post-season bowl game. The Big Ten Conference changed the antiquated Rose Bowl-only rule prior to the 1975 season meaning the Wolverines were eligible to play in a post-season bowl game other than the Rose Bowl. Nevertheless, U of M only had the Big Ten Championship and Pasadena on its mind when the season started. This despite the fact that Bo was starting a true freshman (Rick Leach) at quarterback. U of M was able to maintain its lofty goals despite having an inexperienced signal caller because Leach was that talented of a player. Bo's faith in his new quarterback proved to be well founded as Leach guided U of M to an 8-0-2 record heading into the final regular season game with the 10-0 OSU Buckeyes in a game that would once again decide the Big 10 title and the Rose Bowl berth. U of M led OSU 14-7 but two fourth quarter touchdowns by the Buckeyes gave OSU the 21-14 win, the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl berth.
For the first time since the 1972 Rose Bowl game, however, U of M would be playing on New Year's Day rather than ringing in the new year at home. Unfortunately, it was in the Orange Bowl rather than the Rose Bowl but, Michigan was nevertheless glad to be back in a bowl game. Their opponent was the Oklahoma Sooners (10-1) and the game turned out to be a classic. It was a hard hitting contest and Leach sat out the 3rd quarter with a concussion and the Sooners ultimately pulled out a 14-6 victory over U of M. Oklahoma's Orange Bowl win coupled with Ohio State's Rose Bowl loss to UCLA earlier that New Year's Day gave Oklahoma the 1975 National Championship. Although U of M finished 8-2-2, the Wolverines still had a final poll ranking of #8 in the AP poll and they knew they had laid the foundation for success in the coming seasons. Go Blue!