Michigan football: Wolverines surging into B1G title game vs. Purdue
Don’t look now, but Michigan just might be the hottest team in the country.
Following Saturday’s dominant 45-23 win over Ohio State, their first in Columbus since 2000, the Wolverines find themselves rocketing into the postseason without a loss for the first time since 1997, when they shared the national title with Nebraska.
Any questions surrounding the Wolverines’ ability to throw the ball — specifically the deep ball — were answered this past weekend at The Shoe, with sophomore QB JJ McCarthy slinging for 263 yards and 3 TDs. He shredded the Buckeyes’ secondary and connected on several deep throws, including a 75-yard touchdown to WR Cornelius Johnson and a 45-yard dart to TE Colston Loveland that helped set up a score.
Since the beginning of 2021, Michigan has consistently been ranked among the top 10 in the country, oftentimes in the top 5. Coach Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines are 24-2 during the span, including 2 victories over Ohio State and a Big Ten championship win over Iowa.
Despite a loss to Michigan State in 2021, the Wolverines have seemingly regained control of their rivalries. Michigan State flourished under former coach Mark Dantonio, and Ohio State was golden vs. Michigan with former coach Urban Meyer — but Harbaugh now has UM surging at a level that hasn’t been witnessed in decades.
Work remains, but the Wolverines are getting the job done and reclaiming their spot in the national conversation as a top-5 NCAA powerhouse.
Next on their to-do list? Take down Purdue during the B1G title game Saturday night in Indianapolis.
The level of confidence has to be at all-time high, at least in terms of Harbaugh-era Michigan.
The Wolverines have a star QB, a great run game, able receivers and a beyond-stingy defense — all hallmarks of a championship-caliber team. Saturday’s punishing of the Buckeyes was obviously a feather in their cap, but the Wolverines are hungry for more and appear to be switching into hunter mode.
“It was great and all to get a win, every win is great, and especially this one — but at the end of the day this one doesn’t even matter,” McCarthy said, per Maize ‘N Brew. “The job’s not finished. We got so much more to do and so many places to go. The job’s not finished, and we’re ready to get after it.”
With perhaps his most complete team, at any stop, Harbaugh has often call this year’s Wolverines a group of “heroes.”
Defensive back Mike Sainsristil made one of the biggest plays of the day, batting down what would have been a sure TD toss from OSU QB CJ Stroud to tight end Cade Stover. Had Stover caught that ball, things could have turned out in favor of the Buckeyes, who hadn’t lost to UM on their home turf in 22 years.
Most of the players on the field weren’t even born when that last happened.
Harbaugh has a defense that glided through the regular season ranked in the top 10 in every important statistical category. After Saturday, Michigan has the No. 2 overall total defense in college football. Stars such as DE Mike Morris, DT Mazi Smith and LB Junior Colson, to name a few, all have made plays that dictated the Wolverines’ fate in 2022.
“I knew the team was focused and determined as they had been all season,” Harbaugh said, per Eleven Warriors (OSU blog). “This is a locker room of heroes,” he said. “It was a great team win.”
Sure, Georgia has been hot all season. TCU basically appeared out of thin air, making a claim as one of the best in the country. USC has had a great season as well. Others, such as Ohio State, LSU and Tennessee, were all mentioned — at some time this year — as possible national contenders.
But when sifting through the aftermath of the regular season, and considering the way UM dumped OSU, it’s difficult not to recognized the Wolverines’ incredible momentum.
A win over Purdue would mean more than a second straight Big Ten banner; it’d further emphasize the resurgence of Michigan football.