Michigan wins Big Ten title, has ‘bigger plans’ in College Football Playoff

Michigan wins Big Ten title, has ‘bigger plans’ in College Football Playoff

INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan returns to the College Football Playoff, armed with the experience of failure and the belief that better results lie ahead.

The second-ranked Wolverines pulled away Purdue early in the second half Saturday to win the Big Ten championship 43-22 and win back-to-back championships for the first time since 1991 and 1992.

Michigan remained perfect on the season and continued to dominate, outscoring opponents by 347 points, its best regular season mark since 1905, when Michigan was outscored 495-2.

But after hoisting the Big Ten championship trophy, singing “Mr. Brightside” and celebrating inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the Wolverines immediately turned their attention to the CFP. They’ve been driven all offseason not by beating Ohio State to win the Big Ten in 2021, but by a 34-11 loss to Georgia in a CFP semifinal that was never competitive.

“I like our chances,” the quarterback JJ McCarthy he said. “Last year was flashy, everything was new, the Big Ten championship, the college playoffs. But going into the offseason, it gave us so much momentum. We knew we could get there and we could come back. This whole offseason, everything was in conquest.

“Everything that happened today is great, but the work is not done. We have much bigger plans.”

McCarthy, who passed for 161 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Purdue, was Michigan’s backup in last year’s CFP semifinals. He completed seven of 17 passes that day for 131 yards and the team’s only touchdown.

But the loss motivated him and his teammates to return to college football’s biggest stage.

“It made me feel so much that this win tonight doesn’t really feel like anything,” McCarthy said. “It’s something that’s really hard to come by. I mean, back-to-back Big Ten championships are amazing, but that feeling that we had last year, this just makes sure that that feeling never happens again.

“It was just a drive and a fire inside of us that just got lit, and it’s still burning.”

Michigan will find out its CFP location and opponent later Sunday, but the Wolverines will likely need to win their semifinal for another shot at defending national champion Georgia. If Michigan remains the No. 2 seed, it will likely face TCU or perhaps archrival Ohio State, who the Wolverines beat 45-23 in Columbus on Nov. 26.

“Please, please, bring it,” McCarthy said. “It would be a real blessing if we get a chance to play those guys again.”

Tight end Port Cleaner, who had 56 receiving yards and a touchdown against Purdue, said the CFP rematch against Ohio State “will probably go down as one of the best ever.” But Michigan is ready for any opponent, even Georgia, after a loss that left a “sour taste” during the offseason.

“We’re a different team this year,” Schoonmaker said. “We have a ton of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Even better, we can all play together, use all that great talent.”

Michigan had to evolve late in the season after a knee injury to become a star running back Blake Choir, who had surgery Friday and did not attend the Big Ten title game. Without Corum, the Wolverines leaned on it Donovan Edwardswho followed up his 216-yard rushing performance against Ohio State with 185 yards and a touchdown against Purdue.

Edwards won the title of MVP of the championship game. He became the first Michigan running back to record 400 yards in a two-game span since Mike Hart, the team’s running backs coach, in 2004. The last Michigan player to do so was running back Denard Robinson in 2010. Edwards said he “made for the big moments.”

“This guy comes alive in big games,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “His whole career, whether it’s been high school, college, he’s just shifted into another gear. He’s taken it to another level.”

Harbaugh, whose job was in jeopardy entering the 2021 season, said he hasn’t changed his approach, which the players appreciated during Michigan’s turnaround. The team’s goal now is to turn around their performance and try to win their first national title since 1997.

“We want revenge. We want to make up for last year’s run,” Schoonmaker said. “I know everyone has that in mind. This is amazing, I have no words for tonight, I’m so proud of everyone. But in everyone’s head, we know what we have to do.”

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