BIG-10 Conference Championship Preview
BIG-10 Conference Championship
Iowa (10-2) vs Michigan (11-1) -10.5 | O/U 43.5
Saturday December 4th @ 8:00pm
Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, IN
The Michigan Wolverines are 1 game away from their first College Football Playoff appearance. After finally getting over the gigantic hump that is Ohio State, can they avoid the penultimate let down spot against Iowa in the BIG-10 championship? Iowa is looking to win their first BIG-10 championship since 2004 in what would be a great cap off to a season that reminds me of the one Indiana had in 2020.
When The Michigan Offense Is On The Field
The Wolverines are not a team you want to battle in the trenches, as demonstrated against Ohio State. The Hawkeyes could be a formidable foe here though as their defensive line ranks inside the top-30 in line yards per carry. They’re also giving up an average of just 3.0 yards per opponent rushing attempt.
The issue is when they’ve seen teams run the ball at a high rate the defense has struggled to get off the field. They’ve played 4 teams that ran the ball 40+ times against them, those teams were Colorado State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. Those teams combined to convert on third down at a 46.8% rate. This would rank 120th if extrapolated over an entire season and well above their 2021 season average of 36.3%.
The Wolverines average 42.8 rushing attempts per game, with the advantage I mentioned I expect Michigan to continue to ride their backs Hassan Haskins, Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards to the finish line. Especially when you consider that Iowa’s opponents are throwing an interception at a 5.3% rate this season (1st in country).
When The Iowa Offense Is On The Field
I’m just going to tell you it like it is, this is probably the worst offense in all of power-5. They’re averaging 4.4 yards per play and have been bouncing between Alex Padilla and Spencer Petras at quarterback for the last 5 weeks. There are two things, that may be inconsequential, I can say the Hawkeyes do well. The first is that the offense is disciplined, they are 5th in the country in offensive penalties per game. The second, is Tyler Linderbaum, the future 2022 first round pick is a stud at center.
Going back to Linderbaum, the Hawkeyes are 27th in power success rate. This is the percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. So I think Iowa’s best chance here is run the ball with Tyler Goodson right up the middle behind Linderbaum. This will be tough to watch from an entertainment perspective but the Hawkeyes need ball control if they want any chance to win this game.
This may be the best way to avoid two of the countries top defensive ends in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. The Wolverines are limiting teams to just 17.2 points per game and 4.6 yards per play. With the inconsistency at quarterback and the 120th ranked pass protection from Iowa there won’t be many fireworks when the Hawkeyes have the ball.
Michigan 31 Iowa 10
I struggled to even put double digits on the board for Iowa in this game. Michigan will probably run the ball on 65% of plays and Cade McNamara has thrown just 3 interceptions in his entire career. Those defensive takeaways just won’t be there for the Hawkeyes and this offense needs a short field to score against a defense like Michigan’s. Michigan rolls to the College Football Playoff.