Just a week ago, Michigan was facing the prospect of finishing the Big Ten season a perfect 8-0, but missing out on any BCS bowl game, let alone the Rose Bowl. The possibility of heading to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl was a reality receiver Jason Avant refused to acknowledge, insisting that if Michigan continues to win, “things will work out for us.”
The junior’s words proved to be true Saturday, and if the Wolverines win at Ohio State, they will win the conference title outright and head to Pasadena for the second consecutive year.
Hours after the Wolverines handily defeated Northwestern 42-20, Michigan State — which blew a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead against Michigan on Oct. 30 — put the finishing touches on a 49-14 thrashing over previously unbeaten Wisconsin, giving the Wolverines sole possession of first place.
If No. 7 Michigan (7-0 Big Ten, 9-1 overall) loses to Ohio State, it will share the Big Ten crown with Saturday’s Wisconsin-Iowa winner. If it’s No. 17 Iowa (6-1, 8-2), Michigan will go to the Rose Bowl even if it loses thanks to its win over the Hawkeyes on Sept. 25. But if the Wolverines lose and No. 9 Wisconsin (6-1, 9-1) pulls out the road win, the Badgers will head to Pasadena thanks to a better overall record. Michigan and Wisconsin do not play each other this season.
After struggling mightily in the first half of Saturday’s game, the Wolverines’ offense scored touchdowns the first five times it touched the ball in the second half. With the rust from last week’s bye gone and a conference title within grasp, Michigan is eagerly looking ahead to its showdown with the Buckeyes. “When the clock hit zero, (my mind) turned to Ohio State, straight to the rivalry game, straight to the game for the Big Ten championship,” cornerback Marlin Jackson said.