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Michigan vs. Iowa prediction and pick for Saturday's Big 10 Championship game in Indianapolis. Can Michigan avoid a letdown after its win over Ohio State? Alex Kirshner gives us his pick

Michigan vs. Iowa Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

Michigan Wolverines vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Spread: Michigan -10

Total: 44.5

Game time: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

Where to watch: FOX

Michigan vs. Iowa odds

Michigan vs. Iowa Prediction

Heading into Rivalry Weekend, most people figured the Big Ten Championship would pit Ohio State against Wisconsin. Michigan and Iowa (and, notably, Wisconsin) had different ideas, and the combination of Michigan’s pounding of OSU, Iowa’s very Iowa-like outlasting of Nebraska, and Wisconsin’s faceplant against Minnesota has sent the Wolverines and Hawkeyes to Indianapolis. Now we’re left to quickly assess a matchup that came out of left field.

Iowa is a little simpler to figure out than Michigan, because the Hawkeyes have created no illusions all year about who they are. They’ll play stout defense, they’ll play bad offense, and they’ll try to cobble together enough points through turnovers and field position to compete with higher-flying opponents. That has mostly worked, and Iowa has gone 10-2, including wins over a couple of teams in the SP+ top 25. (Iowa’s wins over Iowa State, Penn State, and Minnesota were generally more impressive than those teams’ won/lost records would indicate.)

Michigan might be a little harder to get a handle on, because what the Wolverines did to Ohio State on Saturday was such a transformative moment for Jim Harbaugh’s program. The Wolverines have been excellent all year –– you don’t go 11-1 if that’s not the case –– but they absolutely destroyed the Buckeyes on Saturday in a fashion many of us didn’t think they had in them. Michigan’s offensive line ascended to a higher plane of existence in bullying the Buckeyes’ front for seven yards per carry, while defensive edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo were the same dominant players they’ve been all season.

Against Iowa, I expect Michigan’s defense to stay brilliant. The Hawkeyes have a tough offensive line and will probably try to run the ball inside behind center Tyler Linderbaum, rather than take the ball outside and let Hutchinson and Ojabo go to work. They might have some success there, but it’s a tall ask for Iowa to keep itself out of obvious passing downs for long. And when they do have to drop back and wait for receivers to get open downfield, I fear for whichever Iowa QB (Spencer Petras or Alex Padilla) has to stand there and hope not to be sacked by Hutchinson or Ojabo. I do not think it’s a good matchup for Iowa in this area, and I don’t think the Hawkeyes’ receivers are going to get open regularly against a Michigan secondary that played Ohio State’s best-in-class receivers pretty tightly in Week 13.

I’m a little less sure that Michigan’s offense will do what it did to Ohio State. The Buckeyes have had defensive issues for long stretches of 2021 that you wouldn’t expect for a team with their talent level, and I don’t think Iowa will let Michigan blow open truck-sized holes every other down for Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum to walk through. The Wolverines’ line was so good against Ohio State that I don’t think it’s fair to expect the same thing again. By a different token, though, Michigan’s line will not get pushed backward all night the way Iowa’s defensive front has done to so many opposing units this season. And Cade McNamara has specialized in ball security, throwing three interceptions in 12 games. He’s not a great candidate to hand Iowa the ball several times, as the Hawkeyes have so often relied on opposing QBs doing for them.

Kirk Ferentz has enough tricks in his bag for Iowa to steal some points and give Michigan a game. He might even have enough to pull a Ferentzy upset. But I don’t think that’s where the value is in Indianapolis this week. The Wolverines are much more potent on offense, and they don’t fit the profile of a team that will beat itself against the Hawkeye defense. The Michigan defense just played well against maybe the best offense in the country, and Iowa’s unit is a pretty far cry from that. I like the Wolverines to win the Big Ten for the first time since 2004 and to do it comfortably enough for their betting backers to win, too.

Michigan vs. Iowa Pick

Article Author


Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.

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