Forty-Four (Michigan 43, Purdue 22)

Michigan wins their 44th Big Ten title.

Photos: Zoey Holmstrom


As I sit here, trying to find the right words to string together to somehow give greater meaning to all of this, I just can't seem to do it. Maybe, because for all of the success so far this season, there's still a feeling of incompleteness. I mean, here we are...undefeated, #2 in the CFP, wins against all of our rivals, a second straight Big Ten title...and yet it all still feels undone.

Maybe it's the loss to Georgia a year ago, and the fact that they're still out there...potentially awaiting a rematch, but this time for all of the glory? Not to get ahead of ourselves, but isn't that how we're all feeling right now?

I've been so privileged to have been able to cover this program for as long as I have – going on 15 years now. And I've been a fan for probably twice that long. But in all of that time, I've never witnessed this type of success. There have been some great teams...1997 of course...2003-04, 2006, 2016 just to name a few. But those great seasons felt different. More contained, somehow.

This current iteration of Wolverines, which began in 2021, is unique. 

We live in an era of dynasties now. Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson have all enjoyed sustained success in this sport...and have, for better or worse, defined the playoff era. It feels to me, the way Michigan has risen these last two seasons, that this isn't just a program with one great QB or a unique blend of circumstances that will quickly subside after a trophy gets hoisted on a makeshift stage at midfield. This feels bigger, like an identity.

View our full Big Ten Championship photo gallery here!

What we all witnessed Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium was less of a championship game and more of a coronation. The real Big Ten title game was played the week prior in Columbus, just as it was in Ann Arbor in 2021. We all knew that if Michigan was ever going to rise to the top of the Big Ten conference, it was going to have to go through Ohio State. They've done it twice now, in overwhelming fashion.

For reasons so simple and yet so complex, in one off-season following the dismal 2-4 Covid year, Michigan found a way to out-gun, out-scheme, out-effort, out-culture and out-attitude not only the Buckeyes, but every opponent on their schedule. And while success against every opponent can be fleeting, getting the better of Ohio State has been enough to propel Michigan to success elsewhere. We've said it time and time again...beat your rival, the rest will take care of itself. The Buckeyes have been doing this since, well, way too long. Michigan State did it for a while during the Dantonio years when Michigan was struggling. It's a simple concept, but one that has eluded the Wolverines until now.

This team just...wins. They set goals for themselves, and go out and execute. Someone gets hurt? Next man up. Running game getting stifled? JJ hits Cornelius Johnson for 69 yards. And then does it again.

A simple concept, but not easy to accomplish. But Michigan does it, because it's just what they do now.

The last two years, to me, have felt like one. Despite a ton of new players stepping up in place of NFL departures, new coordinators, injuries and transfers, Michigan has rolled along doing what they do best...steamrolling opponents with a boring, workmanlike precision.

I know a lot of success in CFB relies on luck, but how can you explain a team going into Columbus without it's best player on both sides of the ball, and coming away with a 22-point win? That game should've been a should've been so much closer. But it was the same script we've seen all year – close at the half with Michigan pulling away down the stretch. The Purdue game in Indy followed suit as well.

The "next man up" philosophy is a the core of any great team. No more so than the 2022 Wolverines who had to replace Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Dax Hill, Josh Ross on defensive side of the ball...while improving in almost every statistical category this year. And we also watched a QB battle play out with JJ McCarthy out dueling Cade McNamara for the starting nod and Blake Corum replacing Hassan Haskins only to become a Heisman contender before getting injured in the 11th game of the season...and then to be backed up Donovan Edwards who's averaged 200.5 yards rushing in the last two games.

We've witnessed the offensive line win the Joe Moore Award a year ago, and then replace Vastardis and Stueber with possibly two better starters in Oluwatimi and Barnhardt enroute to more than likely winning the award again. Some might say the OL has been the foundation for all of Michigan's success these last two seasons. You'll get no argument from me.

Elsewhere on the depth chart, guys like freshman Colston Loveland has emerged from a banged up tight ends room to become a standout in the passing game. Wide-receiver turned defensive back Mike Sainristil has filled the hole left by Daxton Hill a year ago and Michigan's most dangerous sniper in the backfield. Will Johnson snagged two huge INTs last Saturday in his coming out party. Freshman Mason Graham is a star in the making on the defensive line along with Taylor Upshaw and Braiden McGregor who have needed to fill in for injured stars like Mike Morris.

The point is, this is who Michigan is now. They're not a flash in the pan like LSU in 2019 or Florida State in 2013 or Auburn in 2011. Success is never permanent, but when your team's identity is built upon resilience and everyone being ready to compete...there's no mortal ceiling for you. I'm in awe of this every time I think this team has met a challenge too great or an opponent too good. "Happy warriors" Harbaugh likes to call them. For a guy so well-equipped with quirky football-isms all the time, he may have stumbled on the perfect way to describe this team.

For now, it's time to rest, heal and regroup before the final chapters of the 2022 season are written. We've been through so much to get to this point. As someone who gets to moonlight as a professional but is at their core just a fan, there's never been a better time to take a step back and absorb this moment. What a ride this has been. And it's not done yet.

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