No. 2 Michigan set to face No. 16 Iowa for Big Ten title

Field Level Media

November 30, 2023 at 7:40 am.

A third consecutive victory over arch-rival Ohio State put undefeated Michigan on the brink of another College Football Playoff appearance. The No. 2 Wolverines have one more hurdle to clear in order to clinch that berth.

Michigan, winner of the East Division, will face West champion and 16th-ranked Iowa for the Big Ten championship in Indianapolis on Saturday.

The Wolverines (12-0) will have their leader back on the sidelines. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has completed his three-game, conference-imposed suspension related to a signal-stealing scandal. Sherrone Moore filled in ably in Harbaugh’s absence.

“I nominate Sherrone Moore as a Michigan legend,” Harbaugh said. “I want him to take the deep, long bow that he so rightly deserves. And our players, too.”

Michigan’s 30-24 victory over the Buckeyes last Saturday won’t resonate nearly as much, however, if the Hawkeyes upset Wolverines.

“Our goal of being Big Ten East champions has been accomplished,” Harbaugh said. “Now we take our shot at being the Big Ten champions for the third straight year.”

These schools squared off for the championship two seasons ago. The Wolverines thrashed the Hawkeyes 42-3 before losing to Georgia in the playoff semifinals. Last season, Michigan defeated Purdue in the championship game 43-22 then lost to TCU in the semifinals.

Top running back Blake Corum rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on five carries in the matchup with Iowa two seasons ago. He missed the postseason last year with a knee injury but Donovan Edwards stole the show, rushing for 185 yards and a touchdown against the Boilermakers.

Corum has scored an FBS-high 22 rushing touchdowns this season. He’s thrilled to be healthy for this season’s conference finale.

“I like to speak things into existence, so after we win the Big Ten championship, we still have a lot to prove,” Corum said.

Iowa (10-2) stood tallest in the weaker West Division by grinding out low-scoring victories. The Hawkeyes are given little chance to beat the high-powered Wolverines — they’re 22-point underdogs as of Wednesday night.

On the flip side, the Hawkeyes won’t have any pressure on them.

“Our margin for error is always pretty thin. I think given our roster right now — guys that aren’t playing vs. those who are playing — that margin keeps narrowing,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’ve got to make everything count. And we know that.

“We’ve been here before. And we’ve actually won quite a few games like this in the last 25 years,” Ferentz added. “We’ve got to figure out how best to approach it. And most importantly, we’ve got to play our best football. Anything’s possible in sports. I think we’ve all seen that.”

Iowa’s best chance to play spoiler would entail keeping the score down while making a couple of big plays along the way. Michigan and Iowa rank first and fourth, respectively, in the nation in scoring defense.

The Hawkeyes have won four straight and seven of their last eight games. They haven’t given up more than 16 points in any of those contests.

Michigan’s 1-2 running back punch of Corum and Edwards, along with quarterback J.J. McCarthy’s big-play capability, presents them with their biggest challenge this season.

“It starts with the offensive line,” said linebacker Jay Higgins, Iowa’s leading tackler. “They have some good backs who are good at making things happen… It’s going to be up to us to dominate the line of scrimmage.”

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