Bobby Carpenter Looks At Big Ten Championship Saturday

No Ohio State. No Michigan State. No Penn State, Wisconsin, or even Northwestern. Even Nebraska has made it to Indianapolis during the first 10 years of the Big Ten Championship Game. In year 11, the Michigan Wolverines finally make their inaugural appearance as they face West Division Champ, Iowa. Iowa hasn’t appeared in the game since 2015 when they lost a low scoring slugfest to the eventual champ, Michigan State.

Both Michigan and Iowa had their own unique path to their division crown. Michigan lost to their in-state rival Michigan State on Halloween weekend and needed help from Ohio State and Purdue to eliminate the Spartans from the title race. Then to end the season, UM consummated their East crown with their first victory over OSU since 2011.

Iowa also started the season fast then suffered back-to-back defeats against Purdue and Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes righted the ship to win out but got some much needed help on the final weekend of the season when Minnesota upset Wisconsin. This allowed Iowa to back into the Championship Game and crush Wisconsin’s hopes.

Regardless of their path, both teams will now square off with a Big Ten title on the line. For Michigan it means even more, as their first berth in the College Football Playoff is at stake.

No. 2 Michigan v No. 13 Iowa (+10.5)

Run the football and play great defense.

It’s the mantra of both the Michigan Wolverines and Iowa Hawkeyes. In many ways, these teams are mirror images of each other. Michigan features the bruising RB Hassan Haskins, who’s been an unstoppable force the past few weeks. Against Ohio State, he rushed for 169 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Wolverines to an impressive victory. His physical running style wears down defenses, and deep in the 2nd half, it can break their will. Haskins’s backfield mate RB Blake Corum looks to have regained his speedy form after a few weeks rehabbing a hamstring injury. The recipe for the Michigan offense: run ball efficiently, create 3rd and short situations and put QB Cade McNamara in manageable passing situations.

Though they're not getting much national love, Iowa has a front seven that can slow down the Michigan running attack. But DLs Zach VanValkenburg and LB Jake Campbell will have to have monster games to bottle up the Wolverine rushing attack. IF that happens -- and it’s a big IF -- the Hawkeyes have a ball hawking secondary with DBs Dane Belton, Riley Moss, and Matt Hankins who could provide short fields for their less-than-stellar counterparts on offense. 

The Wolverine defense sports a dominating front featuring two 1st team All-Conference rushers, DE Aidan Hutchinson and LB David Ojabo. Hutchinson absolutely wrecked the Ohio State offense last weekend, collecting three sacks and over 15 pressures.

The Hawkeyes will have to establish RB Tyler Goodson to take the heat off QB Spencer Petras. Petras has been efficient, but if he’s attempting more than 30 passes, then the Hawkeyes may be in trouble. Iowa has rebounded well since their midseason losses, but it will take their best effort of the season to come away with their first conference championship in over a decade. It’s a big spread, and this screams a close, old school matchup so take the points, but Michigan gets the win.