The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Sharing the spotlight: Just like Iowa, Michigan football has emerged atop its division amidst plenty of distraction

Ever since Janurary, the Wolverines have dealt with multiple staff suspensions and firings, but still remained undefeated after a challenging stretch run.
Jerod Ringwald
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy stiff arms Iowa’s Kaveon Merriweather during the Big Ten Championship game between No. 13 Iowa and No. 2 Michigan at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. McCarthy rushed for 23 yards on four carries.The Wolverines became Big Ten Champions after defeating the Hawkeyes, 42-3.

Looking at the numbers alone, Michigan football’s undefeated regular season looked like a cakewalk. Having won each game by an average of 27 points, the Wolverines appeared to have a red carpet rolled out for them; a VIP trip to the conference championship to take on Iowa. Yet much like the Hawkeyes, the Wolverines’ impressive record and division title didn’t arrive without hardships.

To start the season, head coach Jim Harbaugh served a school-imposed three-game suspension for alleged NCAA recruiting violations, as well as allegedly giving false information to the NCAA during its investigation. While Michigan cruised in his absence, starting quarterback J.J. McCarthy looked shaky in Week 3 against Bowling Green, throwing three interceptions. McCarthy didn’t take too kindly to his head coach’s punishment, wearing a “Free Harbaugh” shirt after the season-opening victory over East Carolina. 

Yet Harbaugh wasn’t the first coach to get in hot water, as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss was fired in January for what the university said was his unauthorized accessing of other people’s computer accounts. Just four months later, Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler, son of legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler, resigned as the director of football recruiting. According to the Detroit Free Press, Glenn Schembechler liked racially insensitive posts on social media. 

On Oct. 18, the NCAA informed Michigan it had received allegations of a sign-stealing system used to scout upcoming opponents’ games, a practice that is banned in the NCAA. One day later, ESPN reported that Michigan off-the-field analyst Connor Stallions was the prime suspect in the case. 

After further evidence came out of Stallions purchasing tickets in his own name to Big Ten football games, he resigned on Nov. 3. One week later, Harbaugh was suspended by the Big Ten for the rest of the regular season. 

The conference said he violated the league’s sportsmanship policy by conducting an impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage that compromised the integrity of competition.” Michigan linebackers coach Chris Partridge was also let go by the school, having allegedly interfered with the sign-stealing investigation. 

Prior to Harbaugh’s second suspension, Michigan was dominating on both ends of the ball, scoring 40 points per game while holding its opponents to under seven per contest. In fact, the Wolverines didn’t let up a score from inside the 20-yard line through their first nine games. 

Led by defensive back Mike Sainristil with five interceptions, the Michigan defense ranks third in the nation with a plus-14 turnover margin on the season. 

With offensive line coach and play-caller Sherrone Moore taking over head coaching duties for the last three games of the season, the Wolverines faced their toughest stretch yet, facing off against Maryland on the road and two ranked teams in Ohio State and Penn State. 

All of these contests were decided by nine points or less, and featured a heavy dose of the ground game, as McCarthy and leading receiver Roman Wilson took a backseat to running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, who scored all but three of Michigan’s touchdowns while producing 449 yards on the ground. 

At media availability on Monday, Harbaugh did not get into specifics on whether his team could continue this offensive scheme but did admit Moore utilized all but one or two “creative plays off the call sheet” against the Buckeyes. 

Corum, who missed the 2022 Big Ten title game due a knee injury, said he watched the Wolverines’ championship triumph over Purdue from a hospital bed in California following surgery. Adding that “everything happens for a reason,” the running back said he was excited to be back in Indianapolis, especially with the return of Harbaugh. 

“I look forward to just hearing his pregame speech,” Corum said of Harbaugh. “It gets the hair sticking up on my arms, you know, it gets me ready to run through a wall. I’ve definitely missed out on hearing that, but honestly just what he brings to the table and the way he operates.” 

On Saturday, Michigan will look to earn its third straight conference title since its run from 1995-97. Led by quarterback Brian Griese, running back Chris Howard, and Heiman Award-winning cornerback Charles Woodson, that ’97 squad took home the national title. On its path to earning that trophy for the first time in 26 years, Michigan must still take down Iowa if it wants to secure a top-two seed in the CFP.

“They’re probably going to come out and run the ball, try to take control of the line of scrimmage early in the game,” Sainristil said of the Iowa offense. “Potentially set up play action and moving passes… but I’m just looking forward to the game plan that we have.” 

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Jerod Ringwald, Creative Director
Jerod Ringwald is the Creative Director at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. He was previously a managing editor this past summer as well as a former photo editor. During his sophomore year, he worked as a photojournalist covering news and sports.