No. 2 Michigan squares off with No. 13 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday night in Indianapolis to decide the conference champion and a possible berth in the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines come into the game off what’s easily the biggest victory for the program in more than a decade, and certainly the Jim Harbaugh era, as it beat rival Ohio State 42-27 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was Michigan’s first win over the hated Buckeyes since 2011 and only the fourth time since 2000.
Still, the Wolverines could only celebrate the win for so long because if they want to finish the job and earn their first berth in the College Football Playoff, they need to get by a tough Iowa team.
The Hawkeyes started the season strong, opening 6-0 and reaching the No. 2 spot in the AP Poll before losing consecutive games against Purdue and Wisconsin. Those two losses not only knocked the Hawkeyes out of playoff consideration themselves but nearly cost them a chance to win the Big Ten too. The Hawkeyes have won four straight since, including a dramatic and unlikely comeback against Nebraska last week. That win, followed by Wisconsin’s loss to Minnesota the next day, clinched Iowa’s trip to Indianapolis. While it’s improbable the Hawkeyes can reach the playoff, a win in this game would send them to the Rose Bowl.
Michigan vs. Iowa: Need to know
This is Michigan’s first Big Ten Championship appearance: This might come as something of a surprise, considering Michigan’s history within both the Big Ten and the history of college football, but the school with the second-most wins in college football history (949 to Alabama’s 954) has never played for a Big Ten title in the championship game era. The first Big Ten Championship was in 2011 and was played between Wisconsin and rival Michigan State. It was the first of three appearances for the Spartans, and Michigan is the eighth Big Ten team to reach the game.
The Wolverines are looking to win their first Big Ten title since splitting it in 2004. This will be Iowa’s second appearance in the game, after losing to Michigan State 16-13 in 2015. The Hawkeyes are hoping to win their first conference championship since, yes, that’s right: 2004, when the Hawkeyes and Wolverines were co-champions.
Hassan Haskins is one touchdown away from setting a Michigan record: Haskins spent the bulk of the season splitting carries with Blake Corum, but with Corum banged up a little over the last month, he’s taken on a larger role and excelled. Haskins rushed for 571 yards and eight touchdowns in four November games, including five touchdowns in last week’s upset win over rival Ohio State. This season, Haskins now has 18 rushing touchdowns, tying him for second all-time in Michigan history with Anthony Thomas (2000) and Chris Perry (2003). If Haskins scores a rushing touchdown against Iowa, he will tie Ron Johnson, who rushed for 19 in 1968. Two more (either against Iowa or in a bowl game), and Haskins will set a new school record.
Iowa’s defense has forced 28 turnovers this season: The Hawkeyes defense lives in turnovers, and they do it consistently. The 28 forced turnovers in 2021 are the third-most in the country, behind only Cincinnati (32) and Middle Tennessee (31). They’re also an excellent indicator of how a game will end for the Hawkeyes. Of the 28 forced turnovers, 27 have come in Iowa’s 10 wins (2.7 per game), meaning only one has come in its two losses. It makes sense, as the Hawkeyes do not have an explosive offense and have a much easier time scoring points when their defense gives them a short field.
How to watch Michigan vs. Iowa live
Date: Saturday, Dec. 4 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium — Indianapolis
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Michigan vs. Iowa prediction, picks
Featured Game | Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines
It’s hard for me to go against the Wolverines here. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of respect for the Hawkeyes, it’s that this is a bad matchup for them. Michigan is essentially Iowa on steroids. It has an excellent defense and strong special teams, but where the two differ most is on offense. Michigan has one, Iowa doesn’t. Given Iowa’s inability to move the ball this year, it’s hard for me to buy into the idea they’ll suddenly find success against a Michigan defense that held an explosive Ohio State offense in check. Plus, Iowa thrives on turnovers, and Michigan has turned the ball over only nine times. Only five teams in the country have fewer. Lay it with the maize and blue. Prediction: Michigan (-10.5)
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