No. 2 Michigan clinched its second consecutive Big Ten championship and a top-two spot in the College Football Playoff with a 43-22 victory over Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Boilermakers and their dynamic offense ran nearly twice as ma ny plays as the Wolverines, but Michigan made critical stops to come away with their second conference title under coach Jim Harbaugh.
Quarterback J.J. McCarthy couldn't quite match his productivity from the team's regular-season finale over Ohio State, but he threw three touchdowns in just 17 pass attempts as the Wolverines outscored Purdue 29-9 in the second half to continue their impressive run of closing efforts. Running back Donovan Edwards added 185 yards and a touchdown in the win.
Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell played a strong game, but two backbreaking interceptions cost the Boilermakers during a key second-half run. The first came in the third quarter when O'Connell killed a drive in the red zone with an interception to Michigan's Will Johnson. Three drives later, with Purdue down just nine points, O'Connell threw another pick within his own 20-yard line to set up an easy touchdown toss from McCarthy to receiver Ronnie Bell to push Michigan's lead out to three scores.
Michigan is one of the last two undefeated programs standing along with Georgia. The Bulldogs and Wolverines should easily slot in at No. 1 and 2, respectively, after becoming the only top-five teams to win conference championships. Now, all eyes switch to the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine as the College Football playoff committee decides Michigan's eventual destination.
This Big Ten Championship Game was no coronation like Iowa's 42-3 baptism against the Wolverines in 2021. Instead, Purdue played almost the perfect football game to beat Michigan but whiffed on some big chances in key spots.
Purdue put together six drives of at least eight plays, an impressive achievement against Michigan's physical defense. However, only one of the Boilermaker's drives ended in a touchdown: the second drive of the game. Purdue settled for five field goals, including three of 35 yards or fewer. Michigan responded by scoring on all four trips to the red zone. The gap effectively decided the game.
Donovan Edwards continues to emerge
Michigan running back Donovan Edwards missed part of the season with injuries and played second-fiddle to Blake Corum. But in two games with Corum out of the lineup, Edwards has proved definitively that he can be a workhorse running back for one of the best teams in the nation.
Over the last two games against Ohio State and Purdue, Edwards has run for 401 yards and three touchdowns on just 47 carries while breaking off runs of 85 and 60 yards to swing games and lay knockout blows. Edwards has emerged as a legitimate weapon for Michigan's offense and ensured the Wolverines that losing Corum isn't a devastating blow.
McCarthy stays solid
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy put together an incredible performance against Ohio State. While his numbers weren't quite as lofty in the Big Ten title win, McCarthy's performance was critical in keeping Purdue on its toes during a competitive first half.
McCarthy completed 11 of his 17 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He found Ronnie Bell five times for 67 yards and once again extended plays with his feet. Michigan has run the ball at a high level for two years, but McCarthy's playmaking ability is the wild-card factor that the Wolverines have been waiting for as they await a potential national championship showdown against Georgia.
Charlie Jones should be recognized as elite
Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones was a little-used bit player at Iowa, but the Big Ten title game should be on repeat for NFL scouts. Jones was unbelievable, catching 13 passes for 165 yards and tripling his nearest teammate in receiving. Every time Purdue needed a big play, Jones managed to complete acrobatic catches around aggressive Michigan defensive backs. Jones will finish with nearly 1,400 yards receiving in a sensational senior season. Not many receivers nationally can boast 100-yard receiving games against Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State.