Michael Marot, an AP Sports Writer, authored this piece.
On Saturday, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh marked his comeback to the field by embracing players and skillfully dodging a potential Gatorade shower.
Blake Corum and J.J. McCarthy were already contemplating larger objectives.
As the confetti rained down on the Wolverines, they boldly declared their new status as the top team in the nation.
Corum netted two goals and the defense achieved an uncommon shutout as the second-ranked Michigan team dominated over the 18th-ranked Iowa team with a final score of 26-0. This victory secured their third consecutive Big Ten title game win, third consecutive playoff appearance, and most likely the top seed in the College Football Playoff.
“We established our objectives earlier this year and this is another one we have accomplished,” Corum stated following his 52-yard rushing performance on 16 attempts, which also tied Anthony Thomas’ record for career touchdown runs at 55.
After losing to No. 8 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship, No. 1 Georgia’s top spot has opened up for Michigan (13-0, No. 2 CFP) to potentially claim, having spent the majority of the season ranked at No. 2. Despite previous losses in the semifinals, Michigan has not won a national title since 1997.
No opportunity was given to Iowa (10-3, No. 16).
Harbaugh was able to enjoy a significant moment on the sidelines with his team upon his return, following a three-game suspension for being accused of participating in a sign-stealing plot. He was absent for the team’s 1,000th win and their division-clinching victory against Ohio State last week.
The crowd of Michigan supporters expressed their displeasure with loud boos when Tony Petitti, the new Big Ten Commissioner, presented the championship trophy. He seemed to ignore Harbaugh, the first coach in the conference’s history to achieve three consecutive outright conference championships, which is also a first for the school.
Harbaugh appeared indifferent to Petitti’s response, however.
Harbaugh expressed his excitement about the accomplishment, saying, “It made me feel extremely happy.” He then posed a question to the Michigan Nation, asking, “Can anyone name a team better than us?”
The Wolverines continued their streak of consecutive victories against Big Ten opponents, now at 25, with J.J. McCarthy completing 22 out of 30 passes for 147 yards.
The Hawkeyes experienced a continuation of their usual performance.
Although the defense was strong and only allowed two touchdowns on short drives and four field goals, the offense struggled and only gained 155 yards. This made them the second team in conference championship history to not score any points in the final season of the East-West division format. The first team to do so was Ohio State, who defeated Wisconsin 59-0 in 2014.
Iowa’s Deacon Hill completed 18 out of 32 passes for a total of 120 yards, while the team only gained 35 yards on 24 rushing attempts. This loss ended their four-game winning streak and was the second time in three years that Iowa was defeated by Michigan by a margin of more than 25 points in the title game.
There was a clear distinction on Saturday.
The Wolverines capitalized on Iowa’s errors; the Hawkeyes never did.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz expressed disappointment over tonight’s performance, stating that they were aware they needed to play a flawless game. However, they fell short in areas such as protecting the football and handling certain situations. It was not their night.
Michigan started the game strong, scoring 10 points with a 35-yard field goal on their first possession and a 3-yard run by Corum on their next possession. This came after Semaj Morgan’s impressive 87-yard punt return, setting a new record for the Big Ten title game.
Corum is the sole offensive or defensive player in FBS to have scored in every game of the season.
In the beginning of the second half, he scored again after a replay review determined that what was initially ruled as an incomplete pass was actually a fumble. Michigan gained possession of the ball and Iowa’s departing offensive coordinator, Brian Ferentz, made things worse by receiving an unsportsmanlike penalty, resulting in the ball being moved to the 6-yard line. This increased the score to 17-0.
Ferentz said that he has successfully avoided fines for the past two months, so he will attempt to do so again. He expressed his difficulty with the team’s replay system and shared his confusion over a recent call where he was informed that the arm was going forward but the hand wasn’t, which he finds questionable from a mechanical standpoint.
Michigan ended the game with three successful field goals, the last one being a 50-yarder by James Turner, setting a record for the championship game.
Iowa had their most promising opportunity to score when a 25-yard punt landed them at the Michigan 38. However, on the third play, Jaziun Patterson fumbled at the 30.
Iowa maintained two ongoing trends: the Big Ten West has yet to win a title game during the league’s division era, and the Hawkeyes have not claimed a conference championship since 2004. Many doubted Iowa’s low-scoring offense, including the Wolverines, going into Saturday’s game.
Harbaugh was absent for six games this season due to suspension, but Michigan is still entering the postseason with an undefeated record for the second consecutive year. If they secure the No. 1 seed, they could potentially face off against other top teams such as SEC champion Alabama, Big 12 champion Texas, two-time defending national champion Georgia, or even their longtime rival Ohio State.
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