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Michigan sends message, loud and clear, during blowout of Rutgers

Photo: Andy Shippy

Hey, Ohio State! Michigan saw your 59-0 annihilation of Rutgers. It was a nice win. Quite decisive. But how does 78-0 sound? That’s how Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines treated the Scarlet Knights this past weekend in New Jersey.

Fifty-nine points. Seventy-eight points.

All the same, right?

To date, the undefeated Buckeyes and Wolverines have equally embarrassed Chris Ash’s team. Both have sent memos to the rest of the Big Ten, not to mention notices to the rest of the country: Two of the best in the nation reside in the Big Ten.

The path to a College Football Playoff-berth should run through Ann Arbor and Columbus. “The Game” should be a game this time around.

And it’ll be in Columbus.

Harbaugh always talks about pushing his team to get “one percent better” each day, each game and each week. Mathematically, at least score-wise, the Wolverines were roughly 32 percent better than the Buckeyes were against Rutgers — and the Buckeyes hosted, while the Wolverines had to do their damage on the road.

“It certainly wasn’t the intent to make the score what it was,” said Harbaugh, according to a press release from Rutgers. “You look at (Chris Ash’s) team, he’s doing it the right way. He’s doing it very well. His team will be a factor soon. I have no doubt. He’s a great coach. Our players were better. Not to take anything away from his players, they’ve got a lot of good players, a lot of talented players, but we have more of them and one great player…”

The ace-in-the-hole? Take a wild guess.

“Jabrill Peppers. He really ignited everything in this ball game,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know if you saw it the same way. The speed that he (had) out there was at a different level.”

Homecoming on the road

Perhaps the most versatile player in college football, Peppers — a New Jersey native — seemingly threatened to score each time he touched the ball. Out of the Wildcat formation, during returns — which Rutgers wisely avoided most of the time — and just by simply stepping foot on the field.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound redshirt sophomore didn’t finish with a ton of numbers — but three carries for 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns aren’t bad for a linebacker/defensive back.

He played just the first half, too.

“Whenever you get the balls in your hands you just wanted to make something positive happen,’ Peppers said. “Today, God had his hand on me today on some of those plays. I just have to give it up to the blocking and the coaching scheme. They set the guys up in positions to excel so we just went out there and handled business today.”

Michigan is worth the hype

Remember when Michigan was thrust into the top-three preseason conversation? Top-10, sure. All day. Top-three? Some pumped the brakes (this writer included). And yeah, it’s only a big win over Rutgers… but the Wolverines have clearly demonstrated the characteristics of a potential title contender.

“Just wow. I’ve never been part of a victory this massive,” Peppers said. “But you still have to handle it with class and just keep improving for the next week. You can’t stay on your high horse. Our game against Rutgers is over so we just have to prepare during our bye week for the game after that.”

Top-three team? Oh yeah.

MSU is in trouble

Did you see the Spartans’ 31-14 loss Saturday to BYU? It’s a safe bet Harbaugh caught wind of the score. Maybe he wanted to impress his colleague Mark Dantonio by giving it to Rutgers?

He said that wasn’t the intent, but Harbaugh sent a message to East Lansing while in Jersey.

Michigan State has won seven of the past nine meetings with the Wolverines. However, Michigan State has also lost three regular-season games in a row for the first time since 2009. Instead of fighting for a Big Ten title, which has been the norm during the past six years, the Spartans are scrapping just to reach bowl eligibility.

With Saturday’s win, Michigan has qualified for the postseason. The Wolverines held the Scarlet Knights to two first downs and 39 yards of total offense (34 rushing). With Saturday’s win (and the Spartans’ loss), Michigan made one thing clear about its upcoming game Oct. 29 with its in-state rival.

And it doesn’t look good for Michigan State, which has scored just 41 points during the past three weeks.

The Wolverines had that shortly after halftime versus Rutgers.

Michigan isn’t “back” — but it’s certainly “here.”

Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81


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