The Iowa Hawkeyes have done the unthinkable. Or perhaps more accurately, the unthinkable has happened to the Iowa Hawkeyes. After starting the year 6-0 and climbing to #2 in the nation, Iowa dropped a pair of disappointing games to Purdue and Wisconsin to all but throw away any hopes of winning the Big Ten West. The offense seemed lost and the defense didn’t look like it could hold up to all the injuries.
But the Hawkeyes came together and rattled off four straight wins to put themselves in position to take advantage of any misstep in the season’s final week. On Saturday, they got the opening they needed as the Minnesota Gophers took down the Wisconsin Badgers to hand the West to Iowa.
Now, the Hawkeyes head to Indianapolis to take on the Michigan Wolverines who pummeled then #2 Ohio State in The Game to clinch the Big Ten East. The win over OSU was, like Iowa’s win over Nebraska, Michigan’s fourth consecutive victory to close out the regular season. The Wolverines suffered their only loss of the season at then #8 Michigan State five weeks ago.
The Wolverines come into the championship game averaging 37.3 points per game on a near perfect split between rushing and passing yardage per game (224.9 vs 226.3). That’s well above Iowa’s 25.7 points per game and while the Hawkeyes strive for offensive balance and the passing attack has not been great, it’s actually been much more successful than the disappointing rushing attack. The Hawkeyes come into the championship averaging 177.9 yards per game through the air and only 121.2 yards per game on the ground.
On the other side of the ball, as good as the Iowa defense has been this season, the Wolverines have been better. Michigan is giving up 17.2 points per game, just under the 17.3 points per gamer Phil Parker’s bunch is allowing. The two teams are also similar in yards allowed per game with Michigan giving up 319.3 ypg and Iowa 315.8, but Iowa is more stout against the run while the Wolverines have been better against the pass.
However, the Wolverines get after the quarter back with 33 total sacks on the year. That’s 33rd nationally while Iowa comes in at 76th with 24 team sacks. The Hawkeyes do lead the nation with 22 interceptions and are third in turnovers gained (27) while Michigan is 73rd nationally with just 15 total turnovers gained and 7 interceptions. On the flip side, the Michigan offense has turned the ball over just 9 times all year - 6th best in the nation. Iowa is 44th with 14 total turnovers.
As we look forward to this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game, here’s an early look at the details.
Date: Saturday, December 4th
Time: 7:00pm CT
Matchup: #2 Michigan Wolverines (11-1, 8-1) vs. #15 Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2, 7-2)
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
DraftKings Betting Line: Michigan -10.5, O/U 43.5*
When the Hawkeyes and Wolverines meet on Saturday, it will be for the 62nd time. Michigan leads the all-time series, which dates back to 1900, 42-15-4. Iowa won that inaugural game in 1900 28-5. That apparently made some folks in Ann Arbor unhappy as the Wolverines won the next two years by a combined score of 157-0. The series then went on pause for 21 years, one can only assume so that the Hawkeye state could get a new generation of players who hadn’t heard about the colossal beatdowns.
In 1923, the series resumed with its first game in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes would then make four trips to Ann Arbor before getting Michigan at home once more in 1937. That 14-year window stayed the same as Michigan didn’t come back to Iowa City after ‘37 until 1951.
When the series became more regular in the 70s, Michigan really built its all-time margin. The Wolverines won nine in a row from 1964-1978 including six straight from ‘69-’74. They put together a similar streak on the back end of Hayden Fry’s tenure, winning seven in a row from 1991-2001.
Iowa’s current head coach, Kirk Ferentz, is 7-6 against Michigan all-time while Michigan’s coach, Jim Harbaugh, is 1-1 against the Hawkeyes. Iowa hasn’t defeated Michigan away from the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium since a 38-28 victory over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 2010.
The two teams last faced off in 2019. Michigan won that matchup 10-3 in Ann Arbor. Iowa and Michigan were set to face off in Champions Week a season ago before a covid outbreak within the Wolverine locker room forced the game to be cancelled.
Michigan is 1-1 vs. the Hawkeyes when ranked inside the top-5 since Kirk Ferentz came to Iowa City. Current coach Jim Harbaugh is 0-1. Iowa is 5-1 against the Wolverines when ranked under Ferentz with the lone loss coming in 2019.
Saturday’s matchup will be the first appearance for Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game while the Hawkeyes are making their second appearance with 2015 the only other time Iowa has been to Indianapolis. Since the Big Ten went to the current divisional alignment, the East has won all seven games with Ohio State winning five Championships. In the previous Legends and Leaders alignment, Wisconsin, which is currently in the West, won the Championship twice.