The exhilaration felt after conquering their archrival still reverberates through their collective brains.
It may be hard to top but that’s what the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines want to do in the Big Ten championship game.
The Wolverines also don’t want to leave anything to chance, knowing they would be locked into a College Football Playoff bid if they defeat Big Ten West Division survivor Purdue in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Michigan (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) captured the East crown with a stunning second-half performance in Columbus last week against previously unbeaten Ohio State. The Wolverines outscored the Buckeyes 28-3 after halftime en route to a 45-23 victory, Michigan’s second straight in the storied rivalry and first on Ohio State’s home turf since 2000.
“Definitely right up there as one of the greatest wins, and we’ve had a lot of good ones in 143 years,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Beating the Boilermakers won’t go down as a great accomplishment in the program’s history books, but it would get the Wolverines closer to their ultimate goal.
“The week before was the biggest game in the world. Past game was the biggest game in the world to us,” Harbaugh said. “Now, this game is the biggest game in the world to us. (We’re) going about the preparation, the study of our opponent, the meetings, the practices and getting ready for this game so we can have the same feeling of winning and thrill of victory.”
Purdue (8-4, 6-3) has a long-standing reputation of being giant killers. The Boilermakers are 7-6 in the past five years against ranked opponents.
They will make their first appearance in the conference title game with a “nothing to lose” mentality.
“I remember the feeling last year and nobody expected us to be there last year. Here’s this opportunity to go play in the (Big Ten) championship game,” Harbaugh said. “I know how dangerous a team like that can be. I would imagine that is the same feeling Purdue is having.”
The Boilermakers will have to figure out a way to slow Michigan’s rushing game, even though No. 1 back Blake Corum is dealing with a knee injury. Corum was able to go only a couple of plays against the Buckeyes before the coaching staff shut him down.
Donovan Edwards more than filled the void, rushing for 216 yards, including scoring runs of 75 and 85 yards in the fourth quarter.
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes of 45 or more yards.
“That combination is really lethal,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “You’re going to have to find a way to stop something and they’re able to do so many things. Then off of that, their defense can play lights out at any time and get stops.”
Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell left the team early in the week to mourn the death of older brother Sean. He is expected to return in time for the Saturday game, albeit with a heavy heart.
“It’s a very tough time for him and his whole family,” wide receiver Charlie Jones said.
O’Connell and Jones are a formidable duo. O’Connell has thrown for more than 3,124 yards and 22 touchdowns. Jones has caught 97 passes for 1,199 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“There’s going to be more pressure on Michigan, of course,” Brohm said. “They’ve got a chance to really do something special this year and they’re in a great position to do that. For us, this is a one-game shot to play in the championship game and roll the dice and see what we can do.”