Here’s what’s on the line for Michigan football in Big Ten Championship Game vs. Purdue

Wolverines seek second-straight Big Ten title

McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines runs with the ball for a touchdown during the second half of a college football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Aaron J. Thornton, 2022 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The excitement from another blowout win over Ohio State has barely faded, but the Michigan football team has a Big Ten championship to play for this weekend.

Michigan is heading back to Indianapolis to play Purdue for the conference crown. The Wolverines are heavy favorites, but Jeff Brohm’s team has developed a reputation for shocking top-ranked teams when everyone least expects it.

It’s not a sexy matchup on paper, but there’s still plenty on the line for Jim Harbaugh’s team.

Second-straight Big Ten crown

After going 16 years without winning the Big Ten, Michigan is unlikely to ever take a conference championship for granted.

Last year, the Wolverines broke the streak by pounding Iowa 42-3. With a win Saturday, they would earn their first back-to-back Big Ten titles since 2003 and 2004.

The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in college football, so winning it is a major accomplishment, no matter what happens afterward.

It’s only going to get more difficult, too.

USC and UCLA will soon join the conference, adding one of the sport’s elite brands and another consistently competitive program. If the Big Ten decides to remove divisions, the conference championship game will also become much more of a challenge, as there won’t be a disparity between East and West.

As the fabric of the sport continues to change, Michigan has a chance to cement itself as the current standard of the Big Ten. That’s a lot to play for.

Most wins in program history

Michigan is the winningest program in the history of college football, but it has never had a single season with more than 12 wins.

When the Wolverines were at their most dominant, teams only played 11 times during the regular season, and there was no conference championship game or playoff. There were only a handful of bowl games, as opposed to the 41 that currently exist.

These last two seasons represent the first time Michigan truly has a championship caliber team since the Big Ten expanded and adopted a conference title game. Even though Michigan is likely to make the playoff regardless of Saturday’s outcome, winning that 13th game against Purdue would eliminate any doubt that this is one of the best years in program history.

College Football Playoff seeding

If you’ve been following along with our coverage this week, you know I believe Michigan has already locked up a playoff spot. (You can read my explanation here.)

But you also know that there are a variety of different ways the final four seeds could play out. (We broke down every possible combination here.)

Unlike last season -- when Michigan qualified for its first-ever playoff and ran into a behemoth in Georgia -- this year’s team would have a fighting chance against any opponent. Still, that doesn’t mean all paths to the championship are created equal.

With a win Saturday, Michigan could almost guarantee it doesn’t have to play Georgia in the semifinal. The Bulldogs would have to lose and fall behind Michigan, TCU, and USC. While I think Georgia would probably fall behind Michigan and TCU if both were undefeated, I don’t see the defending champs dropping all the way to No. 4.

But if Michigan loses to Purdue and both TCU and USC win, then the Wolverines will likely head to Atlanta for a de facto road game against the best team in the country.

What to expect

Michigan can’t afford to overlook a Purdue team that’s quietly enjoying a strong finish to the season. The “Spoilermakers” have a chance to earn a Rose Bowl bid, so they’re going to pull out all the stops.

Harbaugh and his staff have done a great job keeping the team focused on the next game, and that shouldn’t be hard to do with a championship on the line. They’re coming off the best win in recent program history, though, so it might have been a bit harder to move on.

Even if Michigan isn’t overlooking Purdue, this game should be more competitive than last year’s Big Ten title.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.