Michigan storms to Big Ten title, eyes College Football Playoff

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Now, it’s on to the College Football Playoff.

Michigan, a week after beating rival Ohio State to win the Big Ten East Division, walloped Iowa 42-3 to win the Big Ten championship in its first title game appearance in front of a record crowd of 67,183. This is the Wolverines’ first Big Ten title since 2004.

Michigan, now 12-1 and entering the weekend No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings, is assured of a spot in the Final Four. The semifinal teams and rankings will be revealed Sunday.

Coach Jim Harbaugh holds up the championship trophy after Michigan defeated Iowa 42-3 to win the Big Ten championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday.

Blake Corum, who scored the Wolverines' first touchdown on a 67-yard run, said he believes Michigan staked a claim for the No. 1 ranking.

“I think so — 42-3, you tell me,” Corum said, smiling.

BOX SCORE: Michigan 42, Iowa 3

The Wolverines scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a 1-yard run by freshman running back Donovan Edwards with 1:25 left. The drive was set up by an interception from safety Caden Kolesar.

“They played a great game,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They're just a really talented football team and they performed extremely well. They've been consistent all season long.

More: Watch: Highlights from Michigan vs. Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game

“We knew this game would be a big challenge coming into it. Got a lot of respect for what they've done this season. Knew we'd have to play our best and make some things go our way. And obviously that didn't materialize.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, in his seventh season, finally beat Ohio State, and finally won a Big Ten championship. It was here, at Lucas Oil Stadium in July during media days, that Harbaugh said his team would “die trying” to beat the Buckeyes, who had dominated the last two decades of the series including eight straight wins. Beat the Buckeyes, win a Big Ten crown and have a shot at a national title. Mission accomplished.

“There's no team I love more than this team,” Harbaugh said. “It's just the way they approach it. They give it their best every day. And then you just — just that simple thing. Nobody ever thinks it's that simple, but it's that simple. There are a thousand other little things that go into it, but when you're around a group of guys and you watch them making sure that they give it their best, their very best, you know, every single day.”

As the Michigan players walked toward the locker room postgame, several were chanting, ‘Two percent.'

“The beginning of the year, the odds, whatever it was, it was two percent likely we’d win the Big Ten championship,’ center Andrew Vastardis said. “That was preseason predictions. We believe in each other, we believe in ourselves, but there’s always a little external motivation.”

Harbaugh has built what many analysts have described as a balanced team, complete in all phases. Against Iowa, the Wolverines had six touchdowns, an interception, a blocked punt by receiver Cornelius Johnson, his second of the season, while holding the Hawkeyes to their lowest point total this season. And edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who entered the Heisman Trophy conversation after his three sacks against Ohio State set a program-single season sack record, added another sack, his 14th of the season.

His teammates after the game chanted “Hutchinson for Heisman.” He has long been considered the heart and soul of this team.

“Man, it's just so cool to see my teammates have my back like that and see them supporting me and doing all that,” Hutchinson said.  That was such a cool moment. And, man, it was so great just to see that and experience that.”

Quarterback Cade McNamara was 16-of-24 for 169 yards and one touchdown and an interception. He had a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Erick All. Hassan Haskins rushed for two touchdowns, setting a single-season Michigan record with 20 rushing touchdowns. Both of those scores were set up by big pass plays from McNamara to tight end Luke Schoonmaker, whose catches went for 22 and 27 yards.

Edwards not only ran for a score but threw for one, connecting with Roman Wilson on a 75-yard touchdown for the game’s second score.

More: Wojo: Wolverines pound their way to Big Ten title, intent on more“We had that play,” Harbaugh said. “That was ready for prime time. It's been ready for prime time about seven weeks. First put it in before he hurt his ankle. And then when he came back, started greasing it up again and knew that that one was going to work.

“We had it planned early. As soon as we got into the left hash after the fourth play, we were going run that. And he's never missed on that throw. Sometimes he throws it off his left, his right foot. He's always on the move running when he throws it. And every time it's a dime.”

The team will be together in Ann Arbor on Sunday to watch the College Football Playoff reveal and find out their next step.

For Harbaugh, this already has been a championship season.

“We talked about it last night — how much more can we pile into one game, the importance of one game,” Harbaugh said. “It's a lot, yeah, the championship, chance to go to the playoffs. To walk past the sign we all walk by, "Those who stay will be champions." To make that valid and that true.

“Every guy on the team in the team picture is going to be up there as part of Big Ten champion. We've got a banner in Glick Fieldhouse that's going to say Big Ten champion. I just knew they would handle it because they give it their very best every single day whatever they're doing.”


Twitter: @chengelis