2021 Big Ten Championship Preview: Michigan vs. Iowa

2021 Big Ten Championship Preview: Michigan vs. Iowa

December 3, 2021
Tyler Goodson (image via The Athletic)

Michigan is #9 nationally in rushing with 225 yards/game and tied for #16 in yards per carry (5.25). Hassan Haskins leads the team with 244 carries for 1,232 yards (5.1 yards/carry) and 18 touchdowns. His rushing load has picked up significantly since Blake Corum suffered a high ankle sprain, resulting in Haskins averaging 26.5 carries per game over the final four weeks of the regular season. Haskins has 8 touchdowns over the stretch. Luckily, Corum returned last week to the tune of 6 carries for 87 yards, so a little bit of lightning is back to join Haskins’s thunder. Michigan is #1 in the country in tackles for loss allowed with just 2.0 per game. Iowa averages 4.58 tackles for loss per game, which is tied for 111th in the nation. They’re led by senior defensive end Zach VanValkenburg (6’4″, 267 lbs.) with 11.5 TFLs. Nose tackle Logan Shannon (6’0″, 289) and defensive tackle Logan Lee (6’5″, 277) man the middle with technique and quickness more than brute strength. The defense is led by junior middle linebacker Jack Campbell (6’5″, 243), who has 124 tackles. He’s paired with 6’1″, 229 lb. weakside linebacker Seth Benson, who has 89 tackles. Senior safety Jack Koerner (6’0″, 204) is third on the team with 75 takedowns. It’s a relatively stationary defense, but they’re good and well coached. They’re #14 in rush defense (106 yards allowed/game) and #8 in yards allowed per carry, at just 2.97. They won’t stop you in the backfield, but they will gang tackle you shortly beyond the line of scrimmage.
Advantage: Michigan

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Michigan is #67 in passing offense (226 yards/game) and #41 in passing efficiency. Quarterback Cade McNamara has completed 64.4% of his passes for 2,301 yards (8.1 yards/attempt), 14 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. That includes 1 interception last week when McNamara got overly aggressive and tried to force a ball to tight end Luke Schoonmaker, allowing the backside safety to pick it off. Wide receiver Cornelius Johnson leads the team with 36 catches for 587 yards and 3 touchdowns. Somewhat amazingly, ten different players have combined to catch Michigan’s 18 touchdown passes. Michigan is #3 in sacks allowed at just 0.75 per game. Iowa is #38 in pass defense (210 yards allowed/game) and #3 in passing efficiency defense. Their players have made a whopping 22 interceptions this year, which is #1 in the country (the next closest team is Western Kentucky with 19). The top interceptor is 6’1″, 205 lb. junior Dane Belton (5 interceptions), who plays a hybrid safety/linebacker role. Senior cornerback Riley Moss (6’1″, 194) is next with 4 picks, while star cornerback Matt Hankins (3 interceptions) will miss the game due to injury. Iowa does what they have done for a long time, which is play a lot Cover 2, keep everything in front, and break on the ball. They are tied for #77 in sacks (2 per game), led by freshman Lukas Van Ness (6’5″, 265) and junior Joe Evans (6’2″, 248) each with 6.0. I think Michigan might struggle to throw the ball downfield considering McNamara’s lack of arm strength, but they should be able to dink and dunk their way down the field with some effectiveness.
Advantage: Iowa

Michigan is #22 in rush defense (123 yards allowed/game) and #27 in yards allowed per carry (3.55). Ohio State managed just 64 yards on 30 carries (including sacks), and that was against one of the top rushing teams in the nation, where star freshman TreVeyon Henderson managed just 74 yards on 17 carries. The leading tackler is middle linebacker Josh Ross with 86 stops, followed by safety Daxton Hill with 60. For the most part, Michigan has done a very good job of keeping things in front of them and rallying to the ball, save for a poor game against MSU and a blip against Northwestern. Iowa is #106 in rushing offense (121 yards/game) and #113 in yards per carry (3.27). Junior back Tyler Goodson (5’10”, 199) has done a respectable job by running for 1,101 yards on 4.6 yards per carry behind a mediocre offensive line. He has some good quickness, and just like on defense, Iowa runs a pretty simple offense but tries to get really good at those few things. Unfortunately for them, this year they’re just not very good at those things. Goodson has 238 carries and the next guys have 44 or fewer, so they’re not really worth discussing. Junior quarterback Spencer Petras (6’5″, 233) has -99 yards rushing this season, but he does have 5 touchdowns on short yardage sneaks and whatnot, so you have to watch out for him on the goal line.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan is #23 in pass defense (196 yards allowed/game) and #16 in passing efficiency defense. Teams manage to gain just the 8th fewest yards per attempt through the air at 6.1. A big reason for that is the pressure Michigan puts on, with 33 sacks, 24 of which have come from edge combo Aidan Hutchinson (13) and David Ojabo (14). Officially, Hutchinson has 10 quarterback hurries, while Pro Football Focus said he had 15 “pressures” against Ohio State alone. The Wolverines are #96 in forcing interceptions with just 7 so far this year. On the other side of the ball, Iowa is pretty bad at passing. They’re #110 in yards per game (178) and #114 in passing efficiency. Petras, who missed two games, has completed 137/236 passes (58.1%) for 1,532 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. His top receiver is tight end Sam LaPorta (6’4″, 249) who has 40 catches for 486 yards and 2 interceptions. Six other guys average between 1.3 and 2.2 catches per game, which is . . . not very noteworthy. What is noteworthy is that Iowa has allowed 31 sacks (#96 nationally), because they’re not very good at blocking on the edges and Petras is slow. The only guy worth noting up front is 6’3″, 290 lb. junior center Tyler Linderbaum, a possible All-American and high draft pick.
Advantage: Michigan


  • Iowa players offered by Michigan include: OL David Davidkov, OL Beau Stephens, RB Gavin Williams
  • Iowa players from the State of Michigan include: S Brandon Deasfernandes (Belleville), S Kaevon Merriweather (Belleville), DE Zach VanValkenburg (Zeeland West)
  • Iowa’s running backs coach is former Hawkeyes standout Ladell Betts


  • On October 5, 2019, Michigan scored 10 points in the first quarter and held on for a 10-3 victory
  • RB Zach Charbonnet ran 13 times for 42 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Michigan forced Iowa QB Nate Stanley to throw 3 interceptions (to Josh Metellus, Ambry Thomas, and Lavert Hill)
  • P Will Hart punted 8 times for 365 yards (45.6 yards/punt)


  • Michigan 24, Iowa 10

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