For the first time in 30 years, Michigan has captured back-to-back Big Ten titles.
Following last week’s triumph over Ohio State, all that stood between Michigan and another berth in the College Football Playoff was a meeting with unranked Purdue in the Big Ten championship game.
Purdue put up a spirited fight, but the Wolverines eventually prevailed with a 43-22 victory in Indianapolis to win a second straight outright Big Ten championship. It’s something Michigan hadn’t accomplished since the 1991 and 1992 seasons.
With the win, Michigan is assured a spot in the CFP — likely the No. 2 seed behind defending national champion Georgia.
Donovan Edwards, red zone defense make the difference for Michigan
To get to 13-0, Michigan needed another big performance from running back Donovan Edwards. Edwards, now in the lead back role in place of the injured Blake Corum, followed up his 216-yard effort from last week with 185 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries vs. the Boilermakers.
That outing from Edwards was needed as Michigan started out fairly slowly. Purdue took a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter and the Wolverines had just a 14-13 halftime lead. In the second half, however, Edwards set the tone.
On the first play of the third quarter, Edwards reeled off a 60-yard burst to set up the first career touchdown for Kalel Mullings.
Purdue went three-and-out on the next possession, allowing Edwards to go back to work. This time, following a 47-yard J.J. McCarthy completion to tight end Luke Schoonmaker, Edwards exploded through the line for a 27-yard touchdown.
Less than five minutes into the second half, Michigan’s lead had grown from 14-13 to 28-13.
It would prove to be too much for Purdue to overcome, but the Boilermakers fought to the end.
Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw for 366 yards, connecting with Charlie Jones (13 catches for 162 yards) over and over again. But the Boilermakers continually stalled in the red zone. Purdue advanced inside the Michigan 20 on six occasions, but scored just one touchdown. Of the other five possessions, four resulted in field goals and another resulted in an O’Connell interception.
Michigan’s ability to bend but not break proved to be the difference in the game. As Purdue’s drives continually came up short, Michigan was able to finish.
Though the final score looks lopsided, Michigan’s lead was just 28-19 early in the fourth. Down nine, Purdue actually got the ball back with the chance to further cut into the lead. However, O’Connell was picked off by Will Johnson for the second time, opening the door for McCarthy to hit Ronnie Bell for a 17-yard touchdown.
That touchdown, McCarthy’s third of the game, put any chances of an upset to rest. McCarthy finished 11-of-17 for 161 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in the win.