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The Pants Predicts: Iowa vs Michigan in the Big Ten Championship

Vegas doesn’t like the Hawkeyes and neither do we.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Is this the year Jim Harbaugh has been selling?
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Iowa Hawkeyes weren’t supposed to be here. After losing to Purdue and Wisconsin, Iowa was supposed to be sitting in Iowa City watching the Big Ten Championship Game and preparing for a January bowl game. Nobody is ready to let them forget that, least of which Vegas.

The oddsmakers in Vegas have shown little faith in Iowa pulling off the upset of the Michigan Wolverines. Or perhaps more accurately, they’ve set a line begging bettors to take the Hawkeyes as the betting public has shown no faith Iowa can pull this thing off. The Hawkeyes opened as 10.5-point underdogs to the Wolverines according to the DraftKings Sportsbook. That’s widened out to 11-points as of Friday with an over/under set at 43.5 total points. That implies a final score of Michigan 27(.25), Iowa 16(.25).

Here at The Pants, we’re not terribly optimistic for the Hawkeyes either. Just one of our staffers is willing to put their name next to Iowa winning this one, but that doesn’t mean we think this is going to be a cakewalk for Michigan either. Our collective prediction is for Michigan to win this one 20-14. That actually puts us on Iowa with the 11-points currently offered and has us pretty firmly on the under.

Here’s a look at the individual predictions for each of our staffers.


Kirk Ferentz is nothing if not a master at keeping games close. That’s been both a blessing and a curse during his tenure at Iowa, but against superior competition that has almost always been a net positive for the Hawkeyes.

This weekend appears no different. Michigan is better on paper at a majority of positions. I expect the Wolverines to find success early running the ball and I anticipate they hit on a couple of big gainers through the air, including a touchdown. On the other side of the ball, they’ll be screaming off the edge after Spencer Petras forcing a mind-numbing number of sacks while managing to bottle up the Iowa running game. Despite what should be a dominant performance, Iowa will hang around and hang around before coming up short on what would be a critical drive late in the game to crush any glimmer of hope.

Michigan 24, Iowa 16

Bartt Pierce

I’m going the Captain Obvious route here. If (IF) the Hawks are close after the first quarter, I think we can win it. Getting our doors blown off is a very real possibility. We will need to slow the Michigan run game and that’s no small task. We also can’t count on a bevy of turnovers. I hope that Spencer Petras has an incredible game. If he doesn’t, I hope that we give Alex Padilla a shot. It will need to be a near-flawless game for our boys to come away with the victory. I’m hoping that Michigan went all-in last week and we get a slow start out of them. Even if we come out on the short end, it’s free football and it’s great to be a Hawkeye.

Michigan 31, Iowa 13

Kendall Phipps

I’ve been optimistic all season and that's not gonna stop this weekend. Michigan has looked great since their loss to Michigan State, but the Hawks aren’t gonna forget them not playing us last years. Petras is gonna need to be huge and he’ll need time, but I got the Hawks.

Iowa 24, Michigan 16

Matt Cabel: Well I am not a betting man but if I was I would be getting on Michigan in this game. I think they just have too much strength on both sides of the ball, and our offense has struggled to accomplish much all year. Given that Michigan shut down the Ohio State offense, I think that’s all you need to know. But, who knows. I’ll be in person cheering the Hawks on so maybe that will make a difference. Just give me a close, enjoyable game — that’s all I care about.

Michigan 38, Iowa 17


Astute readers will know that I’ve exclusively picked Iowa to win in games where the opposing coach has a track record of abject failure of Kirk Ferentz. While Jim Harbaugh’s 1-1 standing against KF isn’t as daunting as say, Jeff Brohm’s or Paul Chryst’s history, there’s still a precedent of success against the Hawkeyes.

And sadly, that will be more than enough.

Michigan 14, Iowa 13.


Kirk Ferentz and Jim Harbaugh have played one another twice without either team scoring more than 14 points, and with Michigan and Iowa boasting the nation’s 8th and 9th best scoring defenses respectively, expect the Big Ten Championship to be decided by a defensive slugfest. Michigan’s pass rush will be a major headache for Iowa, and Brian Ferentz will have to design and execute one of the best game plans of his career for Iowa to move the ball with any consistency. The Hawkeye defense and special teams will make enough plays to keep Iowa in the game, but Michigan’s advantage on offense ends up being the difference in a hard fought contest.

Here’s hoping Iowa finds a way to prove me wrong!

Michigan 17, Iowa 13

Rob Donaldson:

Let’s get right into it. Michigan is a very good football team, in fact, they’re one of the best teams in college football this season. That said, the national media has all but written off the Hawkeyes in this game due to all of the common tropes that we’re accustomed to seeing at this point, “Michigan has more talent,” and of course “Iowa is slow with a bunch of three stars.”

The truth is, Iowa absolutely has a path to victory in this game and that path relies on not turning the ball over on offense and special teams and forcing turnovers. That’s been a common formula for the Hawkeyes all season and this Michigan offense doesn’t present any challenge for Iowa that they haven’t already seen. As far as Michigan’s stifling defense goes? Of course they’re going to have success against Iowa’s offense ... every single team that Iowa has played this season outside of Maryland, Illinois and perhaps Minnesota has had success slowing down or completing shutting down Iowa’s offense...

Every dog has its day and this dog has a lot fight, in addition to having a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. My head tells me Michigan is a better team and still pulls this off, but this isn’t a best of seven ... it only takes one.

Michigan 20, Iowa 13


According to Football Outsiders, Michigan is the Robin to Iowa’s special teams Batman. So what has been an advantage in 12 of 12 games for Iowa, is not any more. But weird stuff follows Iowa and follows Jim Harbaugh. The Michigan head coach is coming off his most important victory in Ann Arbor so there’s gonna be some whiplash when facing Iowa. There’s also precedent that Harbaugh is totally fine playing Kirk Ferentz’s game. Hell, they were 20 point favorites in Iowa City five seasons ago and rolled out a staid gameplan which played right into Iowa’s hands.

Iowa’s gonna have a shot because that’s just how it goes but they’ve not been good enough offensively for it to matter.

Michigan 14, Iowa 9


What does Iowa need to do to win this game? Keep running Goodson and Williams even if it isn’t getting much, and pass out of heavy formations early in downs. On defense, they need to somehow force a very sure handed Michigan offense to cough up the ball 2-3 times.

If Michigan’s best defenders were interior players, I’d feel a lot better about this game. But this is like having George Karlaftis on both ends of the line and Wisconsin’s scheme of getting 2 rushers vs 1 lineman. I have visions of Iowa’s 2019 offensive performance at Michigan where Iowa gave up 8 sacks and scored 3 points.

Michigan 27, Iowa 10

It’s a sad state of affairs, but those are our predictions. How about you? How do you see Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game playing out? Let us know in the comments and go Hawks!