Rapid Reaction: Wolverines capture B1G Championship, Playoff opportunity
Michigan has ended a 17-year drought without a Big Ten football championship. Now the Wolverines will get a chance to end the conference’s 7-year spell without a national title.
The Wolverines routed Iowa 42-3 on Saturday in the B1G Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis behind a stifling defense plus some big plays (and 461 yards) on offense.
Michigan, No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings coming in, now awaits its Playoff fate. The CFP committee will reveal the 4-team field for the Playoff semifinals and the other New Year’s Day 6 bowls at noon ET Sunday on ESPN.
If No. 3 Alabama vaults to the top CFP seed after defeating No. 1 Georgia for the SEC title on Saturday, the Wolverines would seem most likely to face Georgia in one Playoff semifinal. American Athletic Conference champion Cincinnati is very likely to be the fourth team in the field, the first Group of 5 team to crash the CFP top 4 after championship Saturday.
Coach Jim Harbaugh’s UM team, after dominating the Hawkeyes, is a lock to be in either the Cotton Bowl or Orange Bowl, the Playoff semifinals, on Dec. 31. No B1G team has been crowned national champion since Ohio State in 2014, the first year of the CFP system.
It’s the first B1G championship for Michigan (12-1) since 2004. That year UM shared the tile with Iowa in the era before there was a league championship game. The year before, 2003, the Wolverines were sole league champions, which this year’s Wolverines have now achieved. This year’s title is Michigan’s 43rd, extending their league record.
Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara was not asked to carry the offense, which did not move as efficiently as it did the previous week when UM defeated Ohio State. But McNamara threw for a TD, a 5-yarder to tight end Erick All in the 4th quarter, and 169 yards.
UM also made a big play on special teams as well when junior Cornelius Johnson blocked Tory Taylor’s punt early in the 4th quarter, with Michigan taking over at the Iowa 36-yard line. That led to a 1-yard TD dive by Hassan Haskins to give UM a 28-3 lead with 11:16 left in the game.
Haskins set the school record with his 20th rushing TD of 2021, breaking the single-season record of 19 set by Ron Johnson in 1968.
But well before then, two explosive plays in the first half and a long drive to start the second half turned out to be plenty.
Michigan drove 82 yards in 10 plays in the third quarter, capped with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Haskins for a 21-3 lead.
Spencer Petras, the starting quarterback for No. 13 Iowa, was 9-of-22 for 137 yards, no TDs and no interceptions before getting pulled in the third quarter in favor of Alex Padilla. On Padilla’s first drive, he was 6-for-7 and Iowa reached the UM 8-yard line, but Padilla’s 4th-down-and-3 pass fell well short of converting for a 1st down.
In the 1st quarter, Iowa (10-3) got on the board with 1:26 to go on Caleb Shudak’s 20-yard field goal after Michigan stopped the Hawkeyes in the red zone. Iowa was 12th in the 14-team B1G in scoring inside the opposing 20-yard line, at 75.6% in the regular season.
The Hawkeyes got their first big play on defense with 17 seconds left in the first quarter when McNamara’s pass to All was tipped and linebacker Jack Campbell picked it off, but the Hawkeyes could not turn the opportunities into points.
The Wolverines dug deep into the playbook for their second touchdown. Running back Donovan Edwards, who has been more of a receiving weapon that a running threat in recent weeks, took a backward pitch and threw a perfect pass to Roman Wilson down the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 5:27 left in the first quarter.
Michigan struck first in the first quarter on Blake Corum’s 67-yard TD run. Corum, who missed a couple of games late in the regular season with an injury, ran off right tackle, cut toward the sideline and, with a convoy running with him including backup quarterback JJ McCarthy, outraced the Hawkeyes defense for a 7-0 lead.
Iowa had a chance to get on the board first and drove 59 yards in 10 plays, but Caleb Shudak missed a 33-yard field goal wide right.