Michigan clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game with a 52-12 win over rival Michigan State Sunday. The Wolverines needed a bonus-point win to clinch a title game berth, and they scored their fourth try in the 50th minute to go up 24-0.
Coaches are sometimes weary about filling their players heads with concern over standings points and playoff implications, but this week, Michigan’s Matt Trenary debriefed his team on what was needed.
“We tried to hold off as much as possible, through last week and whatnot, but this week we kind of had to say hey, we need to win and score four tries,” he said. “We did that and more, so it was pretty simple.”
Michigan struggled to put the Spartans to the sword early on. The Wolverines played along with State’s preferred game pace – slow and tight – and led just 12-0 at halftime. In the second stanza, Michigan made a concerted effort to move the ball more and quickly, and a red card to a Spartan flanker at the onset helped open up the field.
“I think just fitness wise they started falling off some tackles and they were more gassed,” said Trenary of State.
“We definitely wanted to play faster, just because the way the teams are made up. Their field’s pretty narrow and they play to that strength and try to play tight, and we knew we had to move the ball around against them, and finally for whatever reason we were finding more gaps and everything was kind of working better.”
Michigan, 5-1 in Big Ten play, will face Indiana, 6-0, in the title game Saturday in Elkhart, Ind. The two teams didn’t meet this fall, but they did last season, and Michigan pulled out a last-minute 24-20 win in Bloomington, Ind.
“It was exciting game and one of the highlights of our season last year, but they have a new coach and different players,” Trenary said of Indiana, which has won its last four games by a combined score of 197-6, including a win over Wisconsin, the only team to beat Michigan this season.
“If you look closely at the Wisconsin score, then I think it’s logical to declare us the underdogs in this game, and they’ve been putting up a lot of points on people, but I don’t think that they are unbeatable by any means. I really think it’ll be a fun game, and playing a good team when there are season goals on the line hopefully that brings out the best in both teams.”