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Party Like It's 2004: Wolverines Clinch Big Ten Championship, Playoff Berth

The Michigan Wolverines have clinched a College Football Playoff berth after winning their first Big Ten Championship since 2004.

Leaders and best, champions of the Big Ten.

Seven years into the tumultuous tenure of Jim Harbaugh that left fans wanting more, patience finally paid off. 

Members of the Michigan football team danced in celebration Saturday night, flocking the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis as the Wolverines knocked off the Iowa Hawkeyes 42-3 to win their first Big Ten championship since 2004.

With the win, Michigan is headed to the College Football Playoff as one of the nation’s top four teams. It’s the latest stamp on Harbaugh’s passport with the Wolverines, which before this season was strikingly empty.

Its destination, either the Cotton or Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve, will be revealed Sunday. The Wolverines, currently ranked No. 2, made a strong case for the top seed after No. 1 ranked Georgia fell at the hands of No. 4 ranked Alabama earlier in the day.

Michigan got the ball rolling early Saturday evening with a pair of explosive plays. 

Running back Blake Corum, fully healthy after dealing with injury for the final three regular season games, dashed 67 yards to the end zone on his first carry of the game to put the Wolverines up 7-0.

After forcing an Iowa punt, Michigan needed just one play to double its advantage. Quarterback Cade McNamara pitched it to Donovan Edwards, who threw to wideout Roman Wilson streaking down the sideline for a 75-yard score.

Hassan Haskins, who scored five times in Michigan’s win over Ohio State, was held quiet throughout the first half. Yet, he got into the end zone on the Wolverines’ first drive after halftime with a four-yard dash.

His score made it 21-3, with Caleb Shudak’s 22-yard field goal the only scoring for the Hawkeyes.

Michigan put the exclamation point on the game in the fourth quarter. First, it was Cornelius Johnson blocking a punt in Hawkeye territory. After Luke Schoonmaker hauled in a pass one-handed, Haskins soared over the goal-line for his 20th touchdown of the season, a Michigan single-season record.

Defensively, Michigan entered the matchup boasting its daunting duo of edge rushers, Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. 

Iowa found a glitch in the system early with a series of successful play-action passes.

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The Wolverines responded with force. After Iowa’s first possession ended with a missed field goal, the Wolverines forced the black and gold to punt five times in six possessions.

Hutchinson notched the 14th sack of the season, pummeling Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras to the ground in the second quarter.

Petras was ineffective, finishing 9-for-22 passing, and eventually benched on the Hawkeyes’ final possession of the third quarter. Alex Padilla replaced him but couldn’t spark the offense.

Michigan’s defense thwarted Iowa’s best chance to reach the end zone. On Padilla’s first drive, the Hawkeyes drove inside the 10. Yet, the Wolverines turned their opponent over on downs thanks to their pass rush forcing a seven-yard loss on fourth down.

As the Wolverine defense piled up stops in the second half, Harbaugh was seen smiling and embracing assistant coaches. A late interception by Caden Kolesar ignited the bench, sealing what was already known.

A late Edwards touchdown gave the Wolverines a 42-3 triumphant victory.

Michigan is back atop the Big Ten. The wait is over.

Notes:

  • The game featured 67,183 fans in attendance, which is a new record for the Big 10 championship game. The previous high was 66,985 fans, set in 2015 in a matchup between Michigan State and Iowa.
  • Haskins broke the single season rushing touchdown record, surpassing Ron Johnson’s 1968 season in which he scored 19 times.
  • With the win, the Wolverines have earned 12 wins in a season for the second time in program history. The first was in 1997, under coach Lloyd Carr. That season, Michigan were declared national champions after defeating Washington State in the Rose Bowl.
  • Harbaugh is due to earn a large bonus for the win, as he earns $1 million for winning the Big 10 and $500 thousand for appearing in the College Football Playoff. He has stated that he will donate all bonus monies acquired back to Michigan’s athletic department. 
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