Late Saturday night, Jim Harbaugh embraced his wife and children near the midfield, took pictures with them, and later exchanged handshakes with Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti. It was ironic since Petitti had issued a three-game suspension for the Michigan football coach the previous month. No biggie, though, since Michigan football secured its third-straight Big Ten championship with a shutout win over Iowa.

Michigan football, Jim Harbaugh, Wolverines, Big Ten Championship Game

For the first time since November 4, Harbaugh patrolled the Michigan football sideline as they dominated No. 16 Iowa, 26-0, at Lucas Oil Stadium. They secured their third consecutive outright Big Ten title -— a historic feat for the team. Michigan now holds the distinction of being the fifth FBS team to start consecutive seasons at 13-0 and achieved the second shutout in Big Ten championship game history. This echoed the 2014 Ohio State team that blanked Wisconsin 59-0 on their way to a national championship.

Basking in Triumph

Set to receive their third straight College Football Playoff berth on Sunday, Michigan football basked in the victory. Harbaugh received a warm acknowledgment from defensive back Mike Sainristil, who forced two of the three Iowa fumbles in the game. He was also named the championship game MVP.

“Congratulations to you, coach. Welcome back,” Sainristil told Harbaugh.

Harbaugh emphatically responded, “I never left!”

Harbaugh had been serving the suspension imposed by the Big Ten. It was a consequence of a prohibited off-campus signal-stealing operation led by former staff member Connor Stalions. Harbaugh could lead practices and contribute to game-planning during this time. However, he had no involvement with Michigan on game days. Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore acted as the acting head coach. After the win against Ohio State that secured their spot in the league championship, Harbaugh described his mood as “10 out of 10, happy.”

“It's not about me, I've had plenty of success,” Harbaugh added. “But you know that your players can feel what it's like to be a champion, their families can know what it's like to be a champion, for my wife and my kids to have their dad be a champion, for my parents to have their son be a champion, that's the great thrill. It's a beautiful, wonderful thing.”

Michigan dedicated the win to offensive lineman and captain Zak Zinter. He suffered a broken leg against Ohio State. Zinter, despite undergoing surgery on November 25, joined his teammates for the Big Ten championship. Quarterback JJ McCarthy highlighted the team's motivation to win for Zinter. He noted that it brought an added level of urgency.

Defense and special teams played a crucial role in Michigan football's victory over Iowa. The Wolverines limited the Hawkeyes to 213 yards and allowed only one scoring drive of more than 28 yards. Semaj Morgan's 87-yard punt return, the longest ever in a Big Ten championship game, set up Michigan football's first touchdown. The Wolverines' defense held Iowa to 2.8 yards per play, 4-of-15 on third down, and 0-for-3 on fourth down.

As Michigan football awaits its College Football Playoff placement and opponent, Harbaugh, with a postseason record of 1-6 at the school, is optimistic about the team's future prospects.