No. 2 Michigan returns to action in the heels of its dominant, long-awaited win over rival Ohio State last week, as it faces No. 13 Iowa on Saturday in the Big Ten Championship Game with a shot for a berth in the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history. The Wolverines moved up three spots from No. 5 in the selection committee's rankings Tuesday, but a win is still probably needed against the Hawkeyes to secure the team's spot in the top four.
Iowa has more to play for than just spoiler, as it looks to win the program's first Big Ten title since 2004, and in doing so, punch a ticket to the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes finished the shortened 2020 strong and started 2021 hot, winning its first six games of the season and rising to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 poll before back-to-back losses to Purdue and Wisconsin in October. Those losses put Iowa's Big Ten title game hopes in doubt, but four straight wins against divisional opponents to close out the year (and some help from Minnesota) gave it the outright Big Ten West title.
This is the second appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game for Iowa (0-2) and the first appearance for Michigan, which is going for its first conference title since 2004.
How to watch Michigan vs. Iowa live
Date: Saturday, Dec. 4 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium -- Indianapolis, Ind.
TV: FOX | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Michigan vs. Iowa: Need to know
Heisman hype for Hutchinson: Michigan defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson started the year expected to be one of the top pass rushing talents in college football, but here at the season's conclusion he has an argument as one of the most outstanding players in the sport at any position. Hutchinson ranks third nationally with 13 sacks, six of which came in high-profile wins against Penn State (3) and Ohio State (3) in November. The Heisman Trophy conversation has been fluid throughout the season with preseason favorites taking early losses, and even some traditional candidates like Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud coming up short on a huge stage. Hutchinson is doing the opposite, and it's building hype for him to collect some attention from voters who will turn their ballots in after Saturday's games.
Iowa's defense leads the way: The Hawkeyes lead the nation in interceptions (22) and rank third in takeaways (28). If Iowa picks off Wolverines QB Cade McNamara in the Big Ten title game, it will tie the school record for interceptions in a season. The Iowa secondary has become a position group with high standards and high achievement under defensive coordinator Phil Parker, and the 86 interceptions since 2017 is the most of any team in the country in that span. It's been important for the defense to generate those easy scoring opportunities to compliment an offense that's been undergoing changes at quarterback late into the season.
Haskins closing in on Michigan touchdown record: A whopping five touchdowns in the win against Ohio State has Michigan running back Hassan Haskins one score away from tying the single-season school record set by Ron Johnson in 1968. Currently, Haskins' 18 rushing touchdowns have him tied for second in the record books alongside Anthony Thomas (2000) and Chris Perry (2003). The Michigan rushing attack has been a huge part of the team's breakthrough season in 2021, averaging 224.9 yards per game and 5.25 yards per attempt -- both figures that rank in the top two among all Big Ten teams.
Michigan vs. Iowa prediction, picks
There may be a hangover from the emotional high of beating Ohio State for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era, but even a slow start should still allow for Michigan to win this game and make the playoff. I just don't know how many points Iowa's offense is going to be able to score against Michigan's defense, and over the course of four quarters the Wolverines will be able to pull away. Prediction: Michigan (-11)
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