Michigan did it. They’re Big Ten Champions after beating the Iowa Hawkeyes 42-3. Here are the takeaways from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Defense was impressive in the red-zone
Bend. Don’t break. Michigan’s defense really takes this to heart, and the same can be said in this one. Iowa failed miserably in the red-zone, and Michigan’s defense buckled down at a high clip. The Hawkeyes were just 1-of-3 in the red-zone — one missed field goal and a failed 4th down conversion didn’t aid Iowa’s comeback efforts. Iowa has a really bad offense, 123rd in the nation to be exact, so this is precisely how Michigan’s D should have performed. They got the job done.
McNamara heated up when he had to
At one point McNamara was 5-of-8 for 20 yards and an interception. Iowa’s pass-rush was disrupting McNamara’s clock and he seemed to be out of sorts, settling for checkdowns and throwing a few errant passes. His first half struggles turned into second half production. Cade delivered some key strikes to move the chains — most notably to Luke Schoonmaker to set up goal-to-go early in the 3rd Quarter (Michigan scored a Hassan Haskins touchdown shortly after) and to Erick All midway through the 4th quarter for a 38-yard gain, and then to All once more for a 5-yard TD. McNamara finished the day 16-of-24 for 169 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.
Two big plays made a huge difference
Iowa has an excellent defense, they bottled up Michigan’s rushing attack for much of the day, they limited McNamara’s production through the air — but in the early going two big plays led to points and got Michigan more than enough points to win the game. First there was a 67-yard rushing touchdown by Blake Corum (aided by an incredible downfield block by WR Mike Sainristil), then there was a HB pass by Donovan Edwards that was an absolute beauty which went for 75 yards to Roman Wilson. Michigan’s bread and butter isn’t necessarily big plays, but they’ve had more than enough of them this season, adding two more to the total in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Aidan Hutchinson does Aidan Hutchinson things
Hutchinson was in the backfield all night, forcing quarterbacks Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla to get rid of the ball quicker than they wanted to time and time again. Hutchinson had 1 sack in this one, and 2 QB hits, but the film showed why he’s considered one of the top prospects in next year’s NFL Draft. Hutchinson might not win the Heisman Trophy, but he definitely should be one of the finalists — his case has merit.
They did their job, now it’s playoff time
Clearly Michigan was better than Iowa, clearly the team didn’t have a hangover after such an emotional win over Ohio State a week ago. The team has poise, focus, they don’t get rattled when things don’t go their way — instead they did down and find a way.
It’s playoff time. Michigan will play someone along the lines of Alabama, Georgia, or Cincinnati probably. The team has a month to figure out what they need to get better at, a month to exploit the weaknesses of whoever they face in the playoff. Michigan knows what it takes to win at a high clip, and whatever they’re doing, keep doing it.
What Jim Harbaugh, his staff, and his players have done this season is remarkable considering where this team was a year ago, where many expected this team to finish this season. Harbaugh deserves Coach of the Year honors, and Michigan deserves all the credit in the world. Still, their journey isn’t finish, their dreams are still attainable — let’s see if they can turn an already special season into a downright magical one. Exciting ain’t it?