After defeating Wisconsin 28-7 on Saturday to finish the regular season 6-2 and riding a six-game winning streak, the Iowa Hawkeyes have their opponent for their final Big Ten game of the year. As you’ll recall, the Big Ten announced their revised 2020 schedule to include eight regular season matchups with a Championship Weekend scheduled for December 19th.
That was originally expected to match teams from the East and West according to final division standings. Given how things shook out, that would have meant a matchup between #16 Iowa and #12 Indiana. But due to COVID-19 outbreaks and numerous missed games throughout the season, the original plan came into question. Once the conference voted to allow Ohio State into the Championship Game against Northwestern despite not playing the minimum required regular season games, speculation started to run rampant that the conference would alter the entire lineup.
First, there were rumors Iowa would take on Michigan as that would allow Wisconsin to play Minnesota and the Indiana vs. Purdue game that was cancelled in week 8 could still be played. Then speculation turned to of all teams, Rutgers, who currently has more wins than all Big Ten teams not named Ohio State, Northwestern, Indiana or Iowa.
Now we have our answer.
In short, the rumors were true and the Big Ten preserved some rivalry games. In long, the Big Ten did some things here, likely motivated by money.
Yes, keeping Minnesota vs. Wisconsin is a positive. Yes, it’s nice that Indiana and Purdue get to play this season. But the motives likely run deeper. While Iowa facing off with Indiana is the matchup Hawkeye fans wanted and would have made the most competitive sense, it could have knocked Indiana out of New Year’s Six bowl contention. Iowa, with a pair of early losses, is not a lock for such a game even with a potential win over Indiana.
The conference is increasing its odds at a higher pay out by getting OSU into the playoffs and Indiana into a New Year’s Day bowl. That’s frustrating on the surface for Iowa fans, but the Hawkeyes get a matchup with a traditional power that will be featured on national television and another opportunity to build its own brand.
A win against Michigan likely will have the Hawkeyes just outside the top-10 heading into bowl selection with a chance to jump in if they win another. A loss and any talk about needing the matchup with Indiana was irrelevant.
We’ll know which is the case in less than a week.
Matchup: Michigan (2-4) at #16 Iowa (6-2)
Location: Kinnick Stadium - Iowa City, IA
Date: Saturday, December 19th
Time: 6:00pm CT