The 1997 Michigan Wolverines under third year head coach Lloyd Carr, compiled a perfect 12–0 record, won the Big Ten Conference championship, defeated Washington State in the 1998 Rose Bowl. They were declared the national champion by the Associated Press. The Wolverines finished second to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Coaches Poll, resulting in a split national championship.
Michigan's defense was led by cornerback and Heisman Trophy-winner Charles Woodson. Woodson, (8 INTs, 8 TDs) became the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman. Woodson and defensive end Glen Steele were both first-team selections on the 1997 College Football All-America Team. Other standouts on defense included linebackers James Hall with 8.5 quarterback sacks, Sam Sword with 91 tackles, and Dhani Jones with 90 tackles and 6 sacks. The defense allowed no fourth quarter points or second half touchdowns in the first 8 games of the season.