INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Michigan ignored the preseason predictions, the early poll snub and especially the critics who thought the program’s best days were long gone.
Instead they set out to prove everybody wrong. On Saturday, they did.
Hassan Haskins ran for two scores and broke a longtime school record leading No. 2 Michigan past Iowa 42-3 while clinching their first Big Ten title in 17 years and likely the first playoff berth in school history.
“We defied all expectations,” record-setting Wolverines end Aidan Hutchinson said after becoming the first defensive player to earn game MVP honors. “Nobody ever thought we could do this, especially this season and we did it — in dominant fashion.”
Earning the ring they’ve been craving — and into position for their first national championship since 1997 — sure didn’t come easily. The Wolverines (12-1, No. 2 CFP) had to overcome a midseason loss to in-state rival Michigan State and end the futility against Ohio State for a chance to end their conference title drought.
And then on championship week, the whole state was shocked by the shooting tragedy that took the lives of four high school students in Oxford, Michigan, including Tate Myre, a football player and wrestler. Michigan honored the victims of the school about an hour away from its campus by wearing a patch on their right shoulder with Myre’s jersey No. 42 and four hearts — one for each student who died — inside the school’s traditional block ‘O’ logo.
Myre’s family also joined the Wolverines captains at midfield for the pregame coin toss and, perhaps fittingly, the Wolverines final score gave them 42 points.
“It was Aidan who came to me and wanted to dedicate this game to Tate Myre and ‘yes, let’s do that,’ that was huge,“ coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Tate was a warrior … Best athlete in the school could have easily made it out of that school and been the first one out but you just know while people were running away from that fire, he was running into it. He’s a hero. I’m glad our players got sold on it.”
Resurgent Michigan (12-1, No. 2 CFP) has won five straight and if it makes the playoff, as expected, one more win would send it back to Indianapolis for an even bigger championship game in January.
The Hawkeyes (10-3, No. 13) lost their second straight title game, preventing coach Kirk Ferentz from capturing his first conference crown since 2004. Iowa lost to Michigan State in the 2015 title game and this one came on a night both quarterbacks, Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla, struggled. They were a combined 19 of 37 with 175 yards and one interception.
“One thing just leads to another sometimes, there are games like that unfortunately,” Ferentz said. “They’re not much fun. I’m not sure the score is totally representative of the two teams.”
This one got away quickly.
Blake Corum made two cuts to the right and sprinted 67 yards to make it 7-0. On Michigan’s next offensive play, Cade McNamara lateraled to Donovan Edwards and the freshman running back threw a perfect 75-yard TD pass to a wide open Roman Wilson for a 75-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
Iowa finally answered with a 22-yard field goal but the Hawkeyes offense couldn’t stay on the field.
Hawkins finally broke open the game with a 4-yard TD run midway through the third quarter then sealed the victory with a 1-yard run that gave him 20 rushing TDs in a single season, one more than Ron Johnson had in his record-setting 1968 season.
Michigan: After ending a losing streak to rival Ohio State and a 17-year title drought over the past eight days, the Wolverines are waiting to see to see where the CFP selection committee puts it in the four-team playoff bracke.t
Iowa: It was a bitter end for a team that reached No. 2 in October. Yes, Iowa won four straight and got the help it needed from Minnesota to make it to Indy. But the offense struggled mightily and the defense finally wore down.
Michigan: Corum’s 67-yard run matched the longest of his career and Edwards’ TD pass came on the first throw of his career. Corum had five carries for 74 yards and Haskins rushed 17 times for 56 yards. … Cade McNamara was 16 of 24 with 169 yards, one TD and one interception. … Hutchinson added another sack to his single-season school record, giving him 14. … Michigan beat top-15 teams in consecutive weeks for the fist time since 2003 and posted their third 12-win season in school history (1905, 1997).
Iowa: Ended the first half by picking off its second pass of the game, giving it a record-breaking 24th this season. The school record was set in 1986 and matched in 1987 and 2008. … The Hawkeyes beat three ranked teams this season but a streak of six straight wins over Top 25 foes ended. It was the second-longest active streak in the FBS (Alabama, 11). … The Hawkeyes rushed 33 times for 104 yards.
Michigan: Will find out Sunday where the CFP selection committee has it seeded.
Iowa: Waits to see who and where will play in its bowl game.