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Tom Brady is the king of clutch and luck. His alma mater is the opposite.

In crucial moments, the Michigan Wolverines have been everything Brady isn’t.

Getty and ESPN images. Banner Society illustration.
  1. The Patriots have become the Patriots by winning in a ton of big moments with a mix of skill and luck.
  2. Michigan is arguably college football’s most notorious disappointment. The Wolverines went 0-5 in this top 25 of the millennium’s most beloved games. They’ve constantly blown it in close and high-stakes games, often due to bizarre bounces of the ball.

What do those have to do with each other? The QB who’s won all of these huge Patriots games ... used to play for Michigan. In fact, Brady led several big comebacks as Michigan’s QB. Since he’s been gone, Michigan’s fallen flat and gotten terrible luck, while Brady has piled up more great (and lucky) moments than anyone else.

Let’s compare a few years that demonstrate Brady took all the clutch (and luck) with him when he left Ann Arbor.



The new QB beat the Raiders in the playoffs after getting two of the luckiest breaks in NFL history:

  1. A Brady fumble that would’ve ended the game got overturned via the Tuck Rule, something you’d never heard of beforehand.
  2. Adam Vinatieri somehow hit a 45-yard field goal in a blizzard to force overtime.

The Patriots then beat the Steelers in the AFC Championship, thanks largely to two special teams touchdowns. One was on a blocked field goal return after the Patriots made an illegal forward pass. The Steelers, though, were out of challenges, and this was before the NFL automatically reviewed every scoring play.

The Patriots then won the Super Bowl on a 48-yard Vinatieri field goal at the buzzer. Brady only threw for 145 yards, but got his first ring anyway.


The Wolverines went 2-3 in one-score games that year, including several upsets.

  • #11 Michigan lost by five to #15 Washington in Week 2, pretty much thanks to a blocked field goal returned for a TD. All of Brady’s special teams karma had begun costing Michigan.
  • #6 Michigan lost by two to unranked Michigan State amid alleged game clock shenanigans in East Lansing.
  • #11 Michigan lost by six to unranked Ohio State after two turnovers and a missed field goal in the final 16 minutes.



Led seven game-winning drives, still the most of his career, including four fourth-quarter comebacks. One came in the Super Bowl after Carolina kicker John Kasay sent a kickoff flying out of bounds late to give Brady excellent field position. It set up a Vinatieri winning field goal.


#3 Michigan lost to #22 Oregon as a 7.5-point favorite. Two weeks after that, #9 UM lost to #23 Iowa as a 4-point favorite. Those Ls came by a combined 7 points, and they meant Michigan was out of the title race by the time it beat Ohio State.



In the Super Bowl, he led the Patriots to a 3-point win over a team with a one-legged star receiver and an (allegedly) vomiting quarterback. New England played six one-score games and won five.


In Week 2, #8 Michigan lost to an unranked Notre Dame at home, giving up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

In the Rose Bowl, Michigan led Texas by 10 with 10 minutes left. Vince Young then led the second-most famous Pasadena comeback of his career, culminating with a Texas field goal as time expired. It was the second year in a row Lloyd Carr’s team lost the Rose Bowl as Brady’s won the Super Bowl.

2005 to 2013


His dramatic wins included another four fourth-quarter comebacks in 2007, including one in Week 17 against the Giants to clinch an undefeated regular season. He also led two such comebacks in playoff games.

This was the worst postseason spell of Brady’s career. But even in losing two Super Bowls, he indisputably fared better in big moments than his alma mater did.


To start the 2007 season, Michigan lost the most famous upset in modern college football history to then-FCS team Appalachian State. Despite the Wolverines playing poorly all game, they had a great chance to win on a 37-yard field goal at the buzzer. It got blocked.

Skipping ahead for a bit: in 2015, Michigan would on the bad end of maybe the most shocking final play in college football this millennium. Leading Michigan State by 2 with 10 seconds left and about to hit a clock-killing punt from around midfield, a bad snap led to the punter trying to pick the ball up and punt it anyway, when falling on it probably still would’ve led to a Michigan win.

It bounced perfectly into the hands of MSU’s Jalen Watts-Jackson.

These things happen to everyone at one point or another. It just seems like they only happen to Michigan in crucial moments.



He conducted four more fourth-quarter comebacks, all of them in December or later, including one in the Super Bowl. The game ended with Pete Carroll — who’d previously beaten Michigan at the Rose Bowl — deciding not to just hand off to Marshawn Lynch on the goal line, and Malcolm Butler intercepting a slant to give Brady his fourth ring. It was the most potent cocktail yet of Brady being a) extremely clutch and b) extremely lucky.


Michigan went 2-2 in one-score games, with losses to Maryland and Rutgers.



This was the score, at one point, of a Super Bowl Brady won:

Brady won MVP, but also needed tons of luck: the Falcons weirdly going away from the run with a multi-possession lead late in the game, Brady’s defense getting a big takeaway, an impossible Julian Edelman catch on New England’s tying drive, and New England winning the coin flip in OT, just to name a few things.


The Wolverines needed to beat Ohio State to lock in a Big Ten Championship berth, which probably would’ve led to a Playoff berth. On a fourth down in overtime, with Michigan up three, the Wolverines appeared to have QB J.T. Barrett corralled in the backfield.

Barrett charged toward the first-down marker and got tackled basically right at it. Officials gave him the spot, and OSU scored the winning TD on the next play. The Barrett spot was Zaprudered a million times over. It was probably correct.

Michigan then lost a dramatic Orange Bowl for good measure.



The Patriots beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship because a dude wearing a red jersey lined up on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage. Then Brady won the Super Bowl while only scoring 13 points, thanks to his defense only allowing 3.


The year started with Michigan losing a College GameDay primetime game to Notre Dame. The teams had similar box scores. Michigan fumbled away a tying drive in the final seconds.

What’s next? We’ll update.