The Big Ten Championship game is finally here. After winning The Game in Columbus last week, the Michigan Wolverines are set to take the Purdue Boilermakers in Indianapolis.
While it seems likely Michigan will make the College Football Playoff regardless of the outcome of the game, it would still be nice to be named Big Ten champs in back-to-back seasons. Bragging rights have to count for something, right?
Here are some keys to victory against Purdue.
Slow down Aidan O’Connell
We have the O’Connell family in our thoughts here at Maize n Brew, as Purdue Football tweeted Sunday the family is mourning the loss of Aidan’s brother, Sean.
Despite being away from the team this week, the Associated Press reported that O’Connell is still expected to play in the game. As our Dan Plocher laid out earlier this week, O’Connell has been a steady presence for Purdue this season.
Much like it did against C.J. Stroud and Ohio State, Michigan needs to pressure O’Connell, throw a lot of coverage schemes at him to keep him guessing and force a few turnovers.
Keeping throwing the ball deep
After struggling to find his footing on deep balls all season long, J.J. McCarthy connected with his pass catchers on more than a few long passes in the Ohio State win.
An area of weakness for Purdue is its pass defense; the Boilermakers surrender 218.2 yards through the air per game, which is 59th in all of college football and only a yard better than Maryland. I’m sure I’m not the only one that would love to see Michigan air the ball out again. Hopefully Cornelius Johnson can showcase his speed for a few scores again.
Continue to run the ball without Blake Corum
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Blake Corum is set for knee surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the season. This would be a devastating blow for the Wolverines, as the Heisman candidate was their best player and a huge reason why the team has made it this far.
That said, the Wolverines proved last week against their rival they can run the ball well without Corum — they still racked up 252 yards on the ground, with 216 of those yards coming from Donovan Edwards.
Purdue’s run defense is slightly worse than Ohio State’s: they’ve given up 128.6 yards per game, compared to the Buckeyes giving up 119.9 yards in the run game.
Michigan’s offensive line has made a solid case to repeat as winners of the Joe Moore Award, given to the best offensive line in the country. If they take care of business and help Michigan succeed in the run game again, Michigan should cruise to its second straight Big Ten title.