Michigan vs. Purdue score, takeaways: Wolverines claim top two CFP spots, win second straight Big Ten title

Michigan vs. Purdue score, takeaways: Wolverines claim top two CFP spots, win second straight Big Ten title

No. 2 Michigan clinched its second straight Big Ten championship and first seed in the College Football Playoff with a 43-22 victory over Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Boilermakers and their dynamic offense had nearly twice as many games as the Wolverines, but Michigan made critical stops to capture its second conference title under coach Jim Harbaugh.

Quarterback JJ McCarthy couldn’t match his productivity in the regular-season finale over Ohio State, but he threw three touchdowns on just 17 passing attempts as the Wolverines outscored Purdue 29-9 in the second half to continue their impressive shutout streak. Running back Donovan Edwards added 185 yards and a touchdown in the win.

Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell had a strong game, but two interceptions cost the Boilermakers during a key second-half drive. The first came in the third quarter when O’Connell ended a red-zone drive with an interception by Michigan’s Will Johnson. Three drives later, with Purdue down by just nine points, O’Connell threw another pick inside his own 20-yard line to set up an easy touchdown throw from McCarthy to receiver Ronnie Bell to extend Michigan’s lead to three points.

Michigan is one of the last two undefeated programs along with Georgia. The Bulldogs and Wolverines should easily take the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, after becoming the only top-5 teams to win a conference championship. Now all eyes are on the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine as the College Football Playoff committee decides on Michigan’s final destination.

Missed opportunities

This Big Ten championship game wasn’t a coronation like Iowa’s 42-3 baptism against the Wolverines in 2021. Instead, Purdue played a near-perfect football game to beat Michigan, but had some big chances in key spots.

Purdue strung together six drives of at least eight plays, an impressive feat against Michigan’s physical defense. However, only one Boilermakers’ drive ended with a touchdown: the second drive of the game. Purdue settled for five field goals, including three of 35 yards or less. Michigan answered with a field goal on all four trips into the red zone. The difference effectively decided the game.

Donovan Edwards keeps popping up

Michigan running back Donovan Edwards missed part of the season with injuries and played second fiddle to Blake Corum. But in two games with Corum out of the lineup, Edwards definitely proved he can be a workhorse for one of the best teams in the nation.

In the last two games against Ohio State and Purdue, Edwards ran for 401 yards and three touchdowns on just 47 carries while breaking off scoring drives of 85 and 60 yards to swing and deliver knockout punches. Edwards emerged as a legitimate weapon for Michigan’s offense and made sure the Wolverines’ loss of Corum wasn’t a devastating blow.

McCarthy remains firm

Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy had an incredible performance against Ohio State. While his numbers weren’t as high in the Big Ten title win, McCarthy’s performance was critical in keeping Purdue on its feet during a competitive first half.

McCarthy completed 11 of his 17 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He found Ronnie Bell five times for 67 yards and once again extended plays with his feet. Michigan has run the ball at a high level for two years, but McCarthy’s playmaking ability is the wild card factor the Wolverines have been waiting for as they await a potential national championship matchup against Georgia.

Charlie Jones should be recognized as elite

Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones was a little-used player at Iowa, but the Big Ten title game should be a repeat for NFL scouts. Jones was incredible, catching 13 passes for 165 yards and tripled his closest teammate in receiving. Every time Purdue needed a big play, Jones was able to complete acrobatic catches around Michigan’s aggressive defensive backs. Jones would finish with nearly 1,400 yards receiving in a sensational senior season. Not many receivers nationally can boast 100-yard games against Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State.

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