The Iowa Hawkeyes are poised to face their biggest challenge of the 2023 season as they head to Indianapolis for a rematch of the 2021 Big Ten Championship against the Michigan Wolverines. While Iowa has limped its way through injury and adversity to eek out wins all season, the Wolverines have steamrolled their way through controversy and suspension to win after win. Now they square off for the third season in a row with Michigan seeking their third straight trip to the College Football Playoff.
The college football community and Vegas alike are expecting this one to be a laugher on par with the last time these two faced of in the title game. DraftKings Sportsbook opened the line on this one at Michigan -21.5 with an over/under at 35.5. That line moved up to 23.5 rather quickly with the over/under staying static. But late in the week, it’s come back down to 22.5 with the over/under falling to 34.5 as of Friday morning.
Here at The Pants, we’re.... not terribly optimistic. While a pair of staffers are drinking the Kool-Aid and have picked Iowa to win outright, the rest are on the Wolverines and most are picking them to cover.
On average, we’re calling for a final score of 29-8 in favor of the dark side. While that’s a three-score loss, it actually has us taking Iowa with the points. It also puts us in the strange position of taking the over, which has been a recipe for going broke the last, ohhhhh since Kirk Ferentz started coaching football.
That is largely driven by the success we think the Wolverines will find with the ball in their hands. Michigan has topped 30 points in every game this season, including against top defenses from Penn State and Ohio State. Among the group that is on the Wolverines to win this, we’re expecting them to score 34 points and nearly hit the over themselves. Notably, only one of us expects Iowa to be held scoreless.
Here’s a look at our individual predictions for tomorrow’s Big Ten Championship Game.
There’s a small, almost indistinguishable voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me everything is set up perfectly for this to be the one. Nobody anywhere is giving Iowa a chance of even keeping this one within three scores. And for good reason - Michigan has looked dominant all season while the Hawkeyes have struggled to even look competent on the offensive side of the ball.
Which is all the more reason that voice just keeps repeating that Iowa is best when everyone counts them out. That Michigan has everything in the world on the line with all the distractions (Is Harbaugh leaving for the NFL? Is Mike Hart looking for a head coaching job? Is the NCAA going to bring down sanctions? Can the Wolverines win without cheating?). That the Wolverines are blatantly looking right past Iowa and thinking about how they can stick it to the Big Ten in their celebration and which College Football Playoff spot they should be taking. This has 2016 written all over it.
Except we aren’t in Kinnick. And we don’t have CJ Beathard or Akrum Wadley. We don’t even have the top four players from this year’s team on the field. If the roles were reversed and Michigan was down its top two receiving targets, their starting QB and most dynamic playmaker, then the voice would have some merit. With the current reality, I’d settle for anything close to the 27-14 game we got in Iowa City last year.
Prediction: Michigan 34, Iowa 6
This more than likely gets ugly. Really, really ugly. Captain Khaki Pants is back. A few years ago in the B1G championship game, Michigan threw a halfback pass late. This time of year teams are jockeying for position in the playoffs. Do the Hawks have a chance? Maybe, but it’s doubtful. Michigan is too good. If the Hawks had Cade, Luke, Erick, Noah, and Cooper? I’d feel better about our chances. My guess is that our defense keeps us in it for as long as they can. Eventually, the floodgates will open and we will get boat-raced. Either way, I’m glad we get the opportunity. That’s all you can ask for. Go Hawks!
Prediction: Michigan 43 - Iowa 3
The last Big Ten Championship Game before we become a (more) unwieldy hulk of a conference. Enjoy it! As Iowa fans, we might not see this for awhile.
I fear this plays out like Iowa’s last title game appearance. Iowa will hang for a bit, but eventually the defense will cave because they get worn out. If they had even two of the aforementioned Cade/Luke/Erick/Noah/Cooper group, I’d raise the chances ever so slightly. But they don’t so eventually Iowa’s attempts at complementary football will blow up and they are ground down.
The path to a win is this: if they can keep the chains moving to buy the defense a couple extra minutes of rest, great, they have to get the game in the mud immediately, and let’s be honest - they probably have to get a defensive/special teams score (or two) to have a shot. If they can keep the defense fresh and get this in the mud, they might be able to keep this game in the teens. If they do that, they have a chance. The other helper is reporting that the sign stealing scandal wouldn’t affect Jim Harbaugh’s NFL prospects. More distractions, please! Like, later today! Dial up interest from Carolina. There’s already interest from Chicago. What if New England calls time on the Belichick era? Is Harbaugh a candidate there? Even with it possibly getting into the mud and talk of Harbaugh’s exit being openly discussed on NFL pregame shows, it’s such a narrow path for Iowa due to injuries, a disaster class offense, and oh yeah, Michigan is really talented and does the ground and pound game far better than Iowa, that I can’t see this being anything other than a convincing Michigan win.
Prediction: Michigan 34, Iowa 3
There is a non-zero chance that Iowa can win this game. That being said, it’s hovering around the .5% range. Michigan is a complete team, Iowa is not. I’m not sure that Iowa can beat this team even if they somehow knock JJ McCarthy, Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards, and Roman Wilson out of the game, because the offense still won’t be able to score against Michigan’s defense.
The only hope we have is that they completely overlook Iowa and spent their entire week focusing on potential CFP opponents, come out flat and turn the ball over a ton. Iowa’s going to be salty, there’s no doubt about that. You know they’ve spent all week talking about that halfback pass when they were already up 5 scores. You know that Cade has been giving them every last bit of info he has, and there have been plenty of distractions to keep their mind off Iowa, and I still don’t think it matters.
I’ve been wrong every time I’ve predicted an Iowa loss this year, I really hope that trend continues.
Prediction: Michigan 28, Iowa 10
Stylistically, Iowa and Michigan have much more in common with one another than not. Both teams run balanced offenses that (ideally) lean a little run heavy, pride themselves on playing hard-nosed but fundamentally sound defense, place a huge emphasis on controlling the line of scrimmage, and are firmly committed to playing complimentary football (right down to their two excellent punters). Unfortunately for Iowa, Michigan boasts a superior class of athlete at most positions and a significantly more efficient offense. Michigan and Iowa both want to win Saturday’s game using the same formula, but Michigan happens to be much better at executing it than the Hawkeyes are. While the Hawkeye defense and special teams may be able to keep it close for a while, expect the Wolverines to slowly but surely grind Iowa into submission as the defense begins to wear down after far too many three-and-outs by Deacon Hill and company.
Prediction: Michigan 27, Iowa 10
smile through the pain matt
Prediction: Michigan 38, Iowa 0
It’s easy to dismiss Iowa in this game, the statistics and eye test speak for themselves. Michigan is ranked #2 in the CFP, averages 37.6 PPG and boasts the best scoring defense in the land. Iowa is the polar opposite in offense but fields a fiesty defense of its own. It’s clear the Hawkeyes will need a perfect performance by the defense and play mistake-free on offense. Nobody is giving Iowa a chance in this game, hardly any at all to even keep it competitive. Despite overcoming so much adversity this year (actual adversity, not Michigan adversity) Kirk Ferentz will need one more miracle to bring home a third Big Ten title. They need their defense and special teams to win this.
What the hell. It’s house money, let’s just have some fun with it. Michigan turns it over five times and Iowa wins it scoring only field goals.
Prediction: Iowa 12, Michigan 10
I will be in Indy.
I love Iowa.
Prediction: Iowa 20, Michigan 17
So that’s how we see this one going down. How about you, Hawkeye fans? Does Iowa have any shot this week? Let us know in the comments below!