Michigan won the Big Ten Championship on Saturday night after defeating Iowa 26-0. Michigan improves to 13-0 on the season and is destined for the College Football Playoff.
Here are key takeaways from Michigan’s Big Ten Championship victory.
Defense comes up huge for Michigan
Michigan had not one, not two, but THREE takeaways. Cornerback Mike Sainristil had two of them — one of which was a forced fumble where he torpedoed his body and put a helmet on the ball and jarred it loose, the other was a strip sack fumble on QB Deacon Hill. The third turnover of the game came on a Braiden McGregor strip-sack fumble. The three takeaways led to 10 points for the Wolverines. It wasn’t just the takeaways that were impressive, Michigan had their foot on the throat of Iowa’s offense on a down to down basis. Michigan allowed just 155 total yards, held Iowa to 4-of-15 on third down 0-for-3 on fourth down. Iowa generated just 2.8 yards per play.
Not pretty, but gritty on offense
It’s clear the injury to right guard Zak Zinter has had ripple effects on Michigan’s offensive line. Karsen Barnhart is now at right guard, Trente Jones is now starting at right tackle and a stellar Iowa defense got their licks in. Michigan allowed four sacks and it’ll be important to keep quarterback J.J. McCarthy healthy and upright in the College Football Playoff.
Despite some things the line will need to correct in the month of December, there were good things to take away from the game. McCarthy was an efficient 22-of-30 for 147 yards. Blake Corum rushed for 52 yards and two touchdowns and now has 24 rushing scores on the season. Cornelius Johnson had a great game with nine catches for 64 yards. All in all, Michigan’s offense did more than enough to create separation against a putrid Iowa offense.
Semaj Morgan should be the man handling punts from here forth
True freshman wideout Semaj Morgan had the most electric punt return for Michigan this season. Morgan took a punt 87 yards, set Michigan up in prime field position and it led to Michigan’s first touchdown of the game via a Blake Corum run. Morgan has shown flashy speed and great shiftiness this season on end arounds and screen passes and now it appears the coaching staff trusts him not to cough the ball up as a punt returner. Morgan could be a game changer for Michigan in the playoffs.
James Turner had a Jake Moody night
Michigan was fortunate to have Jake Moody as their kicker for half a decade. Moody crafted a legacy at Michigan and became arguably the best Michigan kicker of all-time. Louisville kicker James Turner had big shoes to fill, and he’s gotten better as the season has rolled along. Turner went 3-of-3 against Ohio State and went 4-of-4 in the Big Ten Championship Game, including a championship-game record 50-yard field goal. The games are likely to get tighter in the playoffs, and it’s good to see Turner doing his job at a high level.
Survive and advance
Michigan’s playoff opponent will be determined on Sunday afternoon. The main thing, no matter who they play, is all their hopes and dreams are still in front of them. The team can win a national championship. The month of December leading up to their playoff game will be crucial. Getting healthy and improving anything that needs to be improved upon are the main things. As great as things are for the Wolverines, they know their season ended in the playoff semi-final the last two years and they don’t want the same fate this time around.