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No. 2 Michigan wins first outright Big Ten title since 2003, cements spot in CFP

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  • Jim Harbaugh
    Jim Harbaugh
    American football player and coach

For the first time since 2003, Michigan is the outright champion of the Big Ten Conference.

There was no hangover for the No. 2 Wolverines a week after they triumphantly snapped an eight-game losing streak to rival Ohio State to win the Big Ten East. They followed that up with a dominant 42-3 victory over No. 13 Iowa on Saturday night in Indianapolis, ending a 16-year Big Ten championship drought in the process.

With the win, Michigan has almost certainly wrapped up a berth in the College Football Playoff — a first for the program with the most wins in NCAA history.

Michigan reeled off two explosive touchdown plays in the first quarter to jump out to a 14-0 lead. First, Blake Corum broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run. And on the first play of Michigan’s next drive, Michigan broke out a trick play. Cade McNamara threw a backwards pass to running back Donovan Edwards, who looked downfield to throw. Edwards hit Roman Wilson in stride with a beautiful pass, resulting in a 75-yard touchdown.

Iowa would drive into Michigan territory a few times, but couldn’t do anything to put any sort of scare into the Wolverines. Iowa missed a 33-yard field goal and settled for a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter. And when it trailed 21-3 late in the third, Iowa turned it over on downs from the Michigan 8-yard line.

That pretty much spelled the end for Iowa’s chances of winning the game. And with the way Iowa was operating offensively, those chances were already remote. 

An incredible turnaround for Jim Harbaugh

Last year, when Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines limped to a 2-4 finish in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, this seemed like something that just might not happen during Harbaugh’s tenure as the head coach of his alma mater.

But Harbaugh — whose contract was restructured, including a decrease in pay — made changes across his coaching staff and Michigan entered the 2021 season with a renewed energy. It has carried all the way through to the season as Harbaugh and the Wolverines have checked massive goals off the list.

Win over Ohio State? Check. Big Ten East title? Check. Big Ten title? Check. College Football Playoff? Almost certainly another check.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh runs onto the field with his team before the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh runs onto the field with his team before the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Before 2021, Michigan hadn’t accomplished any of those goals in its six previous seasons under Harbaugh. Now it has the chance to accomplish another goal — the biggest goal. That’s a national championship, of course.

If Michigan draws one of the SEC teams (Alabama or Georgia) in the semifinals, it will certainly be an underdog. But this team is playing with supreme confidence on both sides of the ball. The offensive line has been excellent. McNamara has been efficient and spreading the ball to a strong group of tight ends and improving crop of receivers. The running backs, of course, have been strong all year long with Hassan Haskins, Corum and Edwards all big-play threats.

And we can’t forget about the defense. Aidan Hutchinson, who now has 14 sacks on the season, has the chance to be a Heisman finalist. When you pair him with David Ojabo coming off the edge, it’s going to be a lot for any opposing offensive line to deal with.

Don’t discount these Wolverines as a legitimate national championship threat.

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