EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- With a week off, Lloyd Carr feared No. 5
Michigan might spend too much time thinking about Ohio State, the
Rose Bowl, the Big Ten title -- everything but Northwestern.
The Wolverines wasted no time proving their coach wrong.
John Navarre passed for 288 yards and two touchdowns as Michigan jumped all over Northwestern in a 24-point second quarter
and beat the Wildcats 41-10 on Saturday.
Northwestern couldn't stop Perry or the rest of the Wolverines.
"Anytime you have Ohio State the next week, you worry about a
letdown no matter who you're playing because that game is
special," said Carr, whose team didn't play last weekend. "Coming
off a bye week made it more questionable in my mind."
Michigan (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) is one victory from its
league-record 41st conference championship and a likely trip to the
Rose Bowl. Michigan's final game of the season is next Saturday
against No. 4 Ohio State, which beat Purdue 16-13 in overtime to
stay tied with the Wolverines atop the Big Ten standings.
"It's a goal that's always down the road," Navarre said of the
Big Ten title. "The way we've been playing, we're playing well
enough to achieve those goals."
Navarre led the Wolverines to a huge second quarter with TD
passes to Braylon Edwards and Jason Avant, who made a spectacular,
one-handed grab to give Michigan a 31-3 lead at halftime.
Navarre completed his first eight passes and led the Wolverines
into scoring position on every possession of the first half except
for the final series -- when Michigan let the clock run down before
Navarre completed 22 of 31 passes before leaving with the rest
of the Michigan starters in the third quarter. The senior
quarterback needs three touchdown passes to become Michigan's
career leader. Elvis Grbac owns the record with 71.
"This is the best I've played, and I think this is the best our
team has played all season," Navarre said. "If I just do my job,
this team is going to play well."
Michigan, which forced three turnovers, put its starters back in
for a series with about nine minutes left after Brandon Horn scored
Northwestern's first touchdown to make it 34-10.
Wolverines running back Chris Perry had touchdown runs of 2 and
1 yards and rushed for 122 yards. He also had five catches for 50
Northwestern (5-6, 3-4) was held to just 261 yards on offense
and needed more than a quarter to get its second first down.
After the game, Northwestern linebacker Pat Durr left no doubt
about which team he thinks is the best in the Big Ten. The Wildcats
lost 20-0 to Ohio State earlier this season.
"By far, Michigan," Durr said. "Offensively, they're balanced
and they have so many weapons. Defensively, they fly around."
The Wildcats didn't help themselves any with four fumbles,
including two recovered by Michigan that led to a pair of TDs.
With Michigan leading 10-3, Northwestern quarterback Brett
Basanez scrambled for a 6-yard gain but fumbled as he was going
down. Jeremy LeSueur recovered for Michigan at the 38.
Perry capped the nine-play drive with his 15th rushing TD.
The Wildcats turned it over again on the ensuing kickoff when
Derell Jenkins couldn't handle the kick and fumbled. On the next
play, Navarre hit Edwards with a 26-yard touchdown pass to give
Michigan a 24-3 lead.
Edwards finished with nine catches for 112 yards.
Avant's 22-yard touchdown catch made it 31-3. Avant, a sophomore
from Chicago, grabbed Navarre's high throw with his right hand,
pulled it into his body before landing in the end zone for the
score -- never touching the ball with his left hand.
Carr said Avant routinely makes those catches in practice.
"I was not totally amazed," Carr said. "He's got great
concentration, he's fearless and certainly that's one of those
catches that people are going to remember."
With a win over Ohio State, the Wolverines would probably play
in the Rose Bowl -- unless they somehow found themselves in the
national title game. The last time Michigan played in the Rose Bowl
was when it won the 1997 national championship.
Last year, Ohio State beat Michigan 14-9 before going on to win
the national championship. Navarre threw an interception at the
goal line as time expired.
"A lot is riding on it. The media is going to hype it up as the
100th game for a Big Ten championship, a trip to the Rose Bowl --
all of that," Navarre said. "Next week is going to be the