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10 Greatest Michigan Football Teams of All Time

A.J. Henning, Andrew Vastardis Michigan Wolverines Football vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

All of these Wolverine teams have one thing in common with the 2021 edition – none lost to Ohio State

Since Michigan did not win the national title in this year's College Football Playoff, it will not be one of the 10 greatest teams in the school's history. That's not a slight to the 2021 squad. It is more of a testament to the program's significant success. With that in mind, here are the 10 best Wolverine teams in program history.

10. 1964

Record: 9-1
Finished: Beat Oregon State 34-7 in the Rose Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 4

Had it not been for a 21-20 loss to quarterback Bob Griese and Purdue, this team very likely would have won a national championship or at least a share of it. Because of the upset, Michigan and its 16 future NFL players had to settle for a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl win.

9. 1985

Record: 10-1-1
Finished: Beat Nebraska 27-23 in the Fiesta Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 2

Led by quarterback Jim Harbaugh and a defense that gave up less than seven points per game, Michigan beat five ranked opponents. Its only blemishes were a 12-10 loss to Iowa in Iowa City and a 3-3 tie with bowl-bound Illinois in Champaign.

8. 1973

Record: 10-0-1
Finished: Tied Ohio State 10-10 in final regular-season game.
Final Ranking: No. 6

The Wolverines won each of their first 10 games by at least two touchdowns to enter their end-of-the-year matchup against No. 1 Ohio State ranked fourth. The Buckeyes took a 10-0 halftime lead, but Michigan tied the game and got the ball back with over six minutes left in the game. Quarterback Dennis Franklin drove the team into Ohio State territory, but a hit from defensive end Van DeCree knocked him out of the game with a broken collarbone with 2:23 remaining. With its offensive firepower now diminished, the Wolverines were only able to attempt two field goals and missed both, so they had to settle on a 10-10 tie. To add insult to injury, Michigan had to stay at home during bowl season while Ohio State went to Pasadena. The controversy around that decision prompted the Big Ten to open postseason bids to at least four teams, and that has since been changed to any team with six wins.

7. 1901-05

Record: 55-1-1

Over this five-year period, head coach Fielding Yost's teams outscored their opponents by a combined score of 2,821 to 42. They won four straight national championships from 1901 to 1904 and were unbeaten in 56 straight games. They are lumped together because of the fact that they played in the earliest stages of college football when the game was much different.

6. 1933

Record: 7-0-1
Finished: Beat Northwestern 13-0 in final regular-season game.
Final Ranking: No. 1

The 1933 squad picked up where they left off from the previous year, going unbeaten and winning a second straight national title. Future U.S. President Gerald Ford was a backup center on this team.

5. 1923

Record: 8-0
Finished: Beat Minnesota 10-0 in final regular-season game.
Final Ranking: No. 1

Fielding Yost"s final national championship came with a team that gave up only one touchdown the entire season. The score came from the Quantico Marines Devil Dogs, which represented the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.

4. 1948

Record: 9-0
Finished: Beat Ohio State 13-3 in final regular-season game.
Final Ranking: No. 1

The Wolverines beat all but two of their opponents by at least 10 points en route to their second consecutive national title. Because of the Big Ten's rule prohibiting consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, their season ended with the win over Ohio State.

3. 1932

Record: 8-0
Finished: Beat Minnesota 3-0 in final regular-season game
Final Ranking: No. 1

Michigan shut out six of its eight opponents and outscored them all 123-12. The Wolverines won the Knute K. Rockne Trophy, which was presented to the team deemed to be the national champion using the Dickinson System, a rating system developed by Frank G. Dickinson, an economics professor at the University of Illinois.

2. 1947

Record: 10-0
Finished: Beat USC 49-0 in the Rose Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 1

Head coach Fritz Crisler's squad outscored its opponents 394-53 and finished second to Notre Dame in the final AP poll, which came out before the bowl games. After Michigan's Rose Bowl beatdown of USC, Detroit Free Press sports editor Lyall Smith arranged an unofficial post-bowl poll between Michigan and Notre Dame and the Wolverines won that poll 266–119. The 1947 team has also been recognized as the national champion by 11 other official selectors.

1. 1997

Record: 12-0
Finished: Beat Washington State 21-16 in the Rose Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 1 (AP Poll), No. 2 (Coaches poll)

Michigan fielded one of the most dominant defenses in Big Ten history. Led by defensive back Charles Woodson, who would go on to become the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy, the Wolverines allowed no fourth-quarter points or second-half touchdowns in the first eight games of the season. They ended up sharing the title with Nebraska, but their résumé was more impressive than the Cornhuskers'.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.