INDIANAPOLIS — For the past two seasons the Wolverines have been one and done in the Playoff semifinals, but now the players believe the third time will be a charm.
The naysayers always point out several reasons why the Wolverines come up short in the postseason. From coaching, to lack of speed, strength of schedule and all the above. However, Michigan’s All-Big Ten defensive back Mike Sainristil is eager to prove the critics wrong.
After securing three-straight Big Ten Titles and two undefeated regular seasons, the Wolverines have a ton of momentum approaching Grandaddy. Sainristil is one of the team captains, and feels this is the closest the team has been since he arrived on campus.
Everyone stood by each other, responded to adversity, and most importantly, took care of business on the field. It’s hard to argue with that when Michigan won six of its’ games without Coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines. He returned for the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa, and his players rallied behind him.
The Wolverines shutout the Hawkeyes 26-0 in front of a crowd of 67,842 at Lucas Oil Stadium, and Sainristil believes they made a statement for Harbaugh. He was fired up for his coach and made plays all over the field. Once the smoke cleared, Sainristil tallied a sack, forced two fumbles and broke up a pass. For his heroics, he was named the MVP of the Big Ten Championship Game, and hoisted the hardware with all of the confetti.
The Delaware native believes the Wolverines have evolved, and the trophies are a testament to all of their hard work. Sainristil is proud to be part of such a close-knit group, and knows the best is yet to come. In his eyes, it’s still Michigan against the world, and the players are prepared for whatever comes their way.
“This team is constantly maturing, getting better as men every single day,” Sainristil said. “It’s been a process, but it’s been a very great process, a learning process, and a learning experience.”
The Wolverines earned their first No. 1 seed in the Playoffs, and they’re eager to show it’s not a fluke. Some fans are concerned after the offensive performance against Iowa. Michigan (13-0) was held to a season-low, 213 yards of total offense, and had to settle for four field goals. Running back Blake Corum was responsible for Michigan’s two touchdowns in the contest. There’s no denying the Wolverines will need better execution in the Playoffs though.
Still, everyone has jumped on Michigan’s bandwagon because they believe in the players, and Harbaugh. The Wolverines aren’t taking anything for granted either. Michigan was humbled by Georgia in the Playoffs in 2021, and upset by TCU last year. Sainristil was part of each of those losses, and doesn’t want to experience that feeling again. Although the Wolverines have the No. 1 seed, they’re still underdogs in his mind, and have something to prove.
“The narrative has changed,” he said. “For some odd reason, people look at Michigan and they’ll say we don’t play whoever, you know, we don’t deserve to be wherever we are, but as we say, the only people — the only things that matter is what happens inside Schembechler Hall.”
Michigan’s seniors are going to go down as one of the most successful groups of the modern era once it’s all said and done. The Wolverines still have unfinished business, so that’s what Sainristil and the rest of the captains are instilling in their teammates. Everyone is determined to accomplish the goals that were set before the season started, and that’s the way Sainristil likes it.
“Guys like me and Blake, this is what we came back for, to have the success with this team, like the brotherhood that this team has is one that I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world, and this team is going down in history,” the 23-year old said.
Everything that the Wolverines encountered and accomplished this fall has made them stronger together. Sainristil feels nothing can tear the team apart now. The former three-star prospect anticipates this unforgettable season is only going to get better for Michigan. And Sainristil plans on enjoying the ride.
“I don’t think that you could paint a better picture, but the picture also isn’t done being painted.”