‘Happy’ Harbaugh savors Big Ten title in return


INDIANAPOLIS — Blake Corum scored twice, tying the school record for touchdown runs with 55, and No. 2 Michigan beat No. 18 Iowa 26-0 on Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game to likely take the top seed in the College Football Playoff.

With coach Jim Harbaugh back on the sideline for the first time in four weeks, the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) routed Iowa (10-3, No. 16 CFP) to win three straight outright conference crowns for the first time in school history.

“The last two [title] teams, we were strong. But there’s something special about this team,” Corum said on Fox’s postgame show. “But like Kobe Bryant said, ‘the job’s not done.'”

And with No. 1 Georgia falling to No. 8 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game, Harbaugh and the Wolverines are poised — finally — to claim the top playoff seed and reach No. 1. Harbaugh became the first coach in conference history to win three straight outright titles and he celebrated by running evasively to avoid getting doused in a Gatorade bath.

Michigan also extended its school record of consecutive wins over Big Ten foes to 25. Corum tied Anthony Thomas’ school career rushing touchdown mark. Corum, the league’s running back of the year, finished with 16 carries for 52 yards. J.J. McCarthy, who was selected the conference’s best quarterback this week, was 22 of 30 for 147 yards, and the defense made it all hold up.

“My only focus is to come out here and attack and take advantage of every opportunity we have,” Wolverines defensive back Mike Sainristil, the game’s MVP, said on Fox’s postgame show. “Do everything I can to execute the game plan.”

For the Hawkeyes, it was more of the same.

While the defense held stout — allowing touchdowns on drives of 5 and 6 yards and four field goals — the offense produced just 155 yards and became only the second team in Big Ten title game history to be shut out in the final season of the East-West division format. Ohio State opened that era with a 59-0 rout over Wisconsin in 2014.

Deacon Hill went 18 of 32 with 120 yards and the Hawkeyes rushed for 35 yards on 24 carries. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak and was the second in three years for Iowa in the title game against Michigan.

The difference: The Wolverines capitalized on Iowa’s errors; the Hawkeyes could not do the same.

Michigan jumped to a 10-0 lead after making a 35-yard field goal on its first possession and Corum powered in from 3 yards out two plays after Semaj Morgan broke free for an 87-yard punt return to set a Big Ten title game record.

Corum is the only FBS offensive or defensive player who has scored in every game this season.

He scored again early in the second half when a replay review overturned an incompletion and ruled it was a fumble. Michigan recovered and outgoing Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz compounded the problem by drawing a penalty for unsportsmanlike penalty, moving the ball to the 6. following. That made it 17-0.

Michigan closed it out with three field goals, the final one being a 50-yarder from James Turner to set a title-game record.

Iowa’s best scoring chance came after a 25-yard punt put it at the Michigan 38. Three plays later, though, Jaziun Patterson lost a fumble at the Michigan 30.

Harbaugh missed six games this season because of suspension and yet Michigan heads into the postseason undefeated for the second straight year.

“Before, he had to lead from the back. Today, he had the opportunity to lead from the front,” Sainristil said of Harbaugh. “He’s a very big presence on the sideline.”

When asked about his feeling on seeding in the CFP and what Michigan could accomplish in the new year, Sainristil added simply that “this team is focused on winning something bigger.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This post was originally published on ESPN

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