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Michigan Shows it Really Isn’t Far Off Title Contention in Orange Bowl Loss

We’re going to guess that Jim Harbaugh isn’t exactly big on moral victories. But, in the 2016 Orange Bowl, his team’s 33-32 loss to the Florida State Seminoles was full of things to love for the future of the Michigan program.

No Jake Butt after less than two quarters, No Jabrill Peppers at all and this team still nearly pulled the game out? That has good news written all over it.

Most importantly, this team showed that its young parts are ready to step in to the spotlight.

Let’s not forget, Michigan’s comeback doesn’t get completed without a crazy 30-yard touchdown run from true freshman Chris Evans.

That put the Wolverines in the lead late, and unfortunately the big plays once again killed the Wolverines defensive effort.

If it weren’t for that, we are likely talking about Michigan winning this game and making a massive statement towards 2017. After all, those in the mainstream of our sports media love to anoint anything relatively familiar to them as powerful based off games like this.

Evans wasn’t the only youngster to show some firepower with the older guys clearly lacking in that department for most of the game. Defensively, Michigan had a standout performance from fellow true freshman¬†Josh Metellus.

With Jabrill Peppers out due to a hamstring injury, Metellus got his first start in the Orange Bowl of all places. Talk about being thrown in to the deep end of the pool.

Metellus finished the game with six tackles and one tackle for loss. His six total tackles were good for second on the Wolverines team in the Orange Bowl, and it gave hope should Peppers declare for the NFL draft that there is depth at the so-called “viper” position Peppers has been playing this season.

Oh, and did we mention that Metellus was the one who scooped up a blocked extra point attempt with the score 33-30 and returned it 98 yards for two big points in the last-ditch comeback effort from Michigan?

His stand-out night may have surprised some on the outside, but not internally. In fact, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown sung his praises earlier in the lead up to the Orange Bowl.

“This Josh Metellus, now, we’re really excited about him,” Brown said Wednesday, via MLive.com. “He can play safety and he can kind of be the poor man’s Jabrill Peppers, too. He has to get a little bigger, maybe. But he can do a lot of the things (on defense) that we ask Jabrill to do.

“Now, I’m not saying he’s Jabrill Peppers. I’m just saying he can be the poor man’s Jabrill Peppers. We’re excited about him. I think he could play either safety position (too). An intelligent, understands-concept guy.”

Even in defeat, Metellus was looking forward to the offseason.

“I feel very confident [about next year],” Metellus said following the Orange Bowl loss to Florida State. “We’ve all been working very hard throughout camp, the whole season and next year’s our time. I feel like we’ll step up.”

Given how key his contributions were and how some of the youngsters stepped up, Michigan may be closer than ever to finally being “back.”

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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