Michigan wins Big Ten title, has ‘bigger plans’ in College Football Playoff

INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan returns to the college football playoffs armed with the experience of failure and the confidence that better results lie ahead.

The second-seeded Wolverines retired from Purdue early in the second half of Saturday to win the Big Ten championship game 43-22 and capture back-to-back championship titles for the first time since 1991 and 1992.

Michigan remained perfect throughout the season and continued to dominate by outscoring opponents by 347 points, the best point difference in the regular season since 1905, when Michigan held a 495-2 lead.

But after holding up the Big Ten championship trophy, “Mr. Brightside” and celebrated on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Wolverines immediately turned their attention to the CFP. Throughout the offseason, they were driven not by beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten in 2021, but by a 34-11 loss to Georgia in a CFP semifinal that was never competitive.

“I love our chances,” said quarterback JJ McCarthy. “Last year it was kind of a bright light, everything is new, Big Ten championship, college football playoff. But when we went into the off-season it gave us so much momentum. We knew we were getting there and we could come back. This whole offseason, it was all about winning it.

“Everything that happened today is great, but the work is not over yet. We have much bigger plans.”

McCarthy, who had 161 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Purdue, was Michigan’s backup in last year’s CFP semifinals. That day he completed seven of 17 passes for 131 yards and the team’s only touchdown.

But the loss motivated him and his teammates to return to college football’s greatest stage.

“It pushed me so much that tonight’s win doesn’t really feel like anything,” said McCarthy. “It’s something that’s really hard to come by. I mean, back-to-back Big Ten championships are amazing, but the feeling we had last year just makes sure that feeling never happens again.

“It was just a ride and a fire within us that was just lit and is still burning.”

Michigan will learn its CFP location and opponent later on Sunday, but the Wolverines will likely need to win their semifinals to get another shot at Georgia, the defending champions. If Michigan remains No. 2, it will likely face TCU or perhaps arch-rivals Ohio State, whom the Wolverines defeated 45-23 in Columbus on Nov. 26.

“Please, please bring it,” McCarthy said. “It would really be a blessing if we could play these guys again.”

Tight end Luke Schoonmaker, who had 56 yards and a touchdown against Purdue, said a CFP rematch with Ohio State would “probably go down as one of the best of all time.” But Michigan is ready for any opponent, even Georgia, after a loss that left “a sour taste” throughout the offseason.

“We’re a different team this year,” said Schoonmaker. “We have a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Even better, we can all play together and use all this great talent.”

Michigan was forced to develop late in the season from a knee injury to star running back Blake Corum, who underwent surgery Friday and didn’t play in the Big Ten title game. Without Corum, the Wolverines have relied on Donovan Edwards, who built on his 216-yard rushing performance against Ohio State with 185 yards and a touchdown against Purdue.

Edwards earned MVP honors in the championship game. He became the first Michigan running back to rush for 400 yards in two games since Mike Hart, the team’s running backs coach, in 2004. The last Michigan player to do that was quarterback Denard Robinson in 2010 for the big moments.”

“This guy comes alive in the big games,” said coach Jim Harbaugh. “His whole career, whether it’s high school, college, he just shifts gears. He takes off to another level.”

Harbaugh, whose job was in jeopardy entering the 2021 season, said he hasn’t changed his approach, which players appreciated during the turnaround in Michigan. The team’s goal now is to change its performance and push for its first national title since 1997.

“We want revenge. We want to make up for our run from last year,” said Schoonmaker. “I know that’s on everyone’s mind. This is amazing I have no words for tonight I am so proud of everyone. But in the back of everyone’s mind we know what we have to do.”

https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/35177495/michigan-rolls-another-big-ten-title-win-purdue-moves-13-0 Michigan wins Big Ten title, has ‘bigger plans’ in College Football Playoff

Emma Bowman

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