The Michigan Wolverines ended years of frustration at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes with an impressive win to secure a spot in the Big Ten title game and move into the second spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Michigan can’t afford to focus on what’s coming up next because a loss to Iowa in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game would end any chance of going after the national championship.
Temperatures are expected to be in the 40s with only a slight chance of rain at kickoff so those who bet online shouldn’t have any concerns about the weather impacting the game.
Game: Iowa (10-2) at Michigan (11-1)
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium
Day/Time: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Iowa vs Michigan Betting Lines
|Iowa||+10½ (-110)||+350||43½ (-110o)|
|Michigan||-10½ (-110)||-450||43½ (-110u)|
Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines: 2021 Big Ten Championship Game
Hawkeyes Look to Rain on Michigan’s parade
If there is one prevailing theme about the Iowa Hawkeyes, it is their ability to capitalize on mistakes by opposing teams.
Iowa leads all FBS teams with 22 interceptions and is third with 28 turnovers forced.
Dane Belton leads the way with five interceptions. Riley Moss, who has four interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns to earn Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year honors, missed three games, including both of Iowa’s losses.
𝗥𝗶𝗹𝗲𝘆 𝗠𝗼𝘀𝘀 | 𝗕𝟭𝗚 𝗗𝗲𝗳𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗕𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗬𝗲𝗮𝗿
◼️ 4 interceptions, 2 touchdowns
◼️ 5 pass breakups
◼️ 28 solo tackles
◼️ 2 tackles for loss pic.twitter.com/ZgFaOLckPF
— On Iowa Sports (@GazetteOnIowa) November 30, 2021
The ability to give the ball to the offense is pivotal because, unlike the high-flying Ohio State offense, the Hawkeyes often struggle to sustain drives.
Iowa ranks 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams in total offense and has thrown only 11 touchdown passes in 12 games. The Hawkeyes are the worst team in the Big Ten at converting red zone trips into touchdowns, reaching the end zone on just 18 of 41 trips.
So how did the Hawkeyes get here? With one of the most physical defensive units in the Big Ten and the ability to pull out close games. Iowa is 7-0 in games decided by 10 points or less.
The biggest concern might be the Hawkeyes’ issues in pass protection. Penn State is the only Big Ten team to allow more sacks than Iowa. Anybody who watched Aidan Hutchinson and the Michigan front seven frustrate Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud knows how important it is to limit the number of times the Wolverines make plays in the opposing backfield.
Four of Iowa’s last five games against Michigan have gone under the scores and odds total and it will be crucial for Iowa to keep the score down. The Hawkeyes are 5-9 in the last 14 games when allowing at least 24 points. Michigan has won 17 of its last 18 games when scoring at least 30 points.
QB-Hunting Season for Wolverines
There’s not a ton of recent history between the Michigan Wolverines and Iowa Hawkeyes, who didn’t play in the 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021 seasons.
During the 2019 meeting, which was also Michigan’s homecoming game, the Wolverines had eight quarterback sacks. Hutchinson had 2½ tackles for loss and a sack in Michigan’s 10-3 win with the Wolverines covering against the college football spreads as a four-point favorite.
When Iowa suffered back-to-back losses to Wisconsin and Purdue, the Hawkeyes allowed 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Now the Hawkeyes face the two-headed, pass-rushing monster of Hutchinson, who has a Michigan single-season record 13 sacks, and David Ojabo (11 sacks). Hutchinson, who had three sacks in the Ohio State win, is moving up the list of Heisman trophy candidates.
In a perfect world, Michigan would love to grab the early lead and force an Iowa offense that runs the ball almost 10 more times per game than it throws it, into having to rely on the passing game. The more that Iowa drops back to pass, the better opportunity that the fearsome Wolverwines pass rush can take over the game. Michigan has won its last 17 games when recording at least four sacks.
Michigan also got its running game going against Ohio State with Hassan Haskins scoring five times and rushing for 169 yards. Now the Wolverines will face an Iowa defense that is second in the Big Ten and eighth nationally, allowing just 2.97 yards per carry.
Michigan-Iowa Not for Faint of Heart
If you are looking for a high-octane offensive showcase, the Big Ten Championship Game might not be for you.
There are 11 FBS conference championship games this weekend and the over/under total of 44 set by the college football odds in the Big Ten title game is the lowest number of the 11. There were a total of 40 points scored in the last two Iowa-Michigan games. While another 10-3 result similar to 2019 seems unlikely, this is also a game that could go under that low total.
The double-digit spread could be risky even if Michigan has put up 101 points in the last two games. The last three Big Ten Championship Games were each decided by more than 12 points but seven of Iowa’s games were decided by 10 points or less. Let’s not forget that Iowa was ranked in the top five earlier in the season so this may not be one of those “pick your final margin of victory” type of games.
With everything riding on the outcome for Michigan, it seems unlikely that the Wolverines would let this game get away, but Iowa figures to make the Wolverines work for this one.