Big Ten Championship Preview: Michigan vs. Iowa

Big Ten Championship Preview: Michigan vs. Iowa

December 2, 2023

Michigan is #53 in rushing offense (169.8 yards/game) and tied for #56 in yards per carry (4.44). Ohio State held up fairly well against the run last week, but they did allow a 22-yard touchdown run by Blake Corum immediately after Michigan starting RG Zak Zinter was lost for the season due to a broken leg. It may be interesting to see what Michigan does with the offensive line. Last week it was RT Karsen Barnhart sliding to right guard, with jumbo TE/extra OT Trente Jones sliding in at right tackle. But Michigan has some options with backup offensive guard Giovanni El-Hadi and former starter Myles Hinton, who was injured two weeks ago but may be available this week. The problem with inserting Jones at right tackle full-time is that it may eliminate Michigan’s formations with that sixth offensive lineman. Iowa is #17 in rushing defense (105.6 yards allowed/game) and they give up just 3.09 yards per carry, which is #9 nationally. They have also allowed just 2 rushing touchdowns this season, which is #1. Senior LB Jay Higgins (6’2″, 233 lbs.) has some ridiculous stats with 141 tackles, including a season-high 18 against Penn State in the Hawkeyes 31-0 loss. Fellow senior LB Nick Jackson (6’0″, 237) has 91 stops of his own, followed by senior safety Quinn Schulte (6’2″, 209) with 59. Senior DE Joe Evans (6’2″, 252) leads the team with 9.5 tackles for loss, followed by Jackson’s 8.0 and senior safety Sebastian Castro (5’11”, 206) with 8.0. It’s a very well coached defense, as always, and they’ve won 10 games despite a terrible offense.
Advantage: Iowa

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Michigan is #65 in pass offense (224.8 yards/game) but #4 in passing efficiency and #5 in yards per attempt (9.5). J.J. McCarthy’s passing has become less explosive in the past three weeks, whether it’s because of tougher opponents or perhaps a lingering injury (or both). He’s completing a high volume of passes, but he has just 1 touchdown and 1 interception in that stretch for 7.5, 6.1, and 7.4 yards per attempt – which is well below his season-long average of 9.7. Wide receiver Roman Wilson’s 40 catches for 648 yards and 11 touchdowns pace the team, but TE Colston Loveland has been a good security blanket with 37 catches for 550 yards and 4 scores. Iowa is tied for #84 in sacks per game (1.92) and led by Evans’s 5.5 and Jackson’s 4.0. Star CB Cooper DeJean (41 tackles, 2 INT) is out for the season, along with his 4 career return TDs. Castro is a star at his linebacker/safety hybrid position, recording 52 tackles, 1 sack, 3 interceptions (1 for a TD), and 7 pass breakups this season. It’s a very experienced defense with 9 out of 11 players being in their fourth year or later; only second-year players Xavier Nwankpa, a safety, and CB Deshaun Lee have been around for less time. Overall, the Hawkeyes are #9 in pass defense (174.3 yards allowed/game), #4 in pass efficiency defense, and #2 in yards per attempt allowed (5.0). The problem with those stats are that Iowa avoided playing many good passing teams, including Maryland and Ohio State from the Big Ten East, so those are stats tallied against a poor Big Ten West and some mediocre non-conference teams.
Advantage: Iowa

Michigan is #7 in rush defense (91.4 yards allowed/game) and #8 in yards allowed per carry (3.02). They’re tied for #4 nationally with just 7 rushing touchdowns given up this season. They gave up just 60 yards and 1 touchdown on 19 carries to Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson last week. Linebackers Junior Colson, Michael Barrett, and Ernest Hausmann lead the team with 71, 45, and 35 tackles, respectively. They’re tied at #67 in tackles for loss with 68, and no player has more than 6.5. Iowa’s abysmal offense starts with its abysmal running game, which is #105 (122.9 yards/game) and #113 (3.46 yards/carry). I like junior RB Leshon Williams (5’11”, 208), but he had just 9 yards on 6 carries against Penn State. Overall, he has 155 carries for 779 yards and just 1 touchdown this season. Ohio native Kaleb Johnson (6’0″, 222) has 104 carries for 415 yards and 3 scores this season. The offensive line has been beaten and battered this season; they’re missing three starters, and junior RG Connor Colby (6’6″, 311) is the best of the bunch, while both LG and LT are weak spots as replacements.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan is #4 in pass defense (155.3 yards allowed/game) and #6 in passing efficiency defense. They give up 6.0 yards per attempt, which is tied for #7 nationally. First Team All-Big Ten CB Will Johnson left last week’s game with an ankle injury, and his status is unclear for this week. Michigan managed just fine without him early in the year with Josh Wallace and an array of other guys opposite Wallace, but these are some big moments for a backup to handle. Slot CB Mike Sainristil has played some outside, but guys like Amorion Walker and Ja’Den McBurrows have played very limited snaps. Outside linebacker Jaylen Harrell leads the team with 5.5 sacks and also notched the pressure that forced Kyle McCord to throw the game-sealing INT last week. Iowa’s passing offense was powered by Michigan transfer QB Cade McNamara and Michigan transfer TE Erick All early in the year, but both suffered ACL injuries. They have been replaced by sophomore QB Deacon Hill (6’3″, 258), who has completed 48.3% of his passes for 976 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions; and by sophomore TE Addison Ostrenga (6’4″, 255), who has 22 catches for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns. Senior WR Nico Ragaini (6’0″, 190) is the leading healthy receiving target with 26 catches for 227 yards. Ohio State transfer WR Kaleb Brown (5’10”, 197) has “come on” – at least by Iowa standards – with 14 catches for 142 yards and 1 score over the past four games. Overall, it’s not clear how one might expect Iowa to move the ball against Michigan. They managed just 76 total yards of offense against Penn State, which is the only other ranked team on Iowa’s schedule. This could get ugly.
Advantage: Michigan


  • Iowa players recruited by Michigan include: TE Erick All, WR Kaleb Brown, DB Koen Entringer, OL Trevor Lauck, QB Cade McNamara, DB Xavier Nwankpa, RB Jaziun Patterson, OL Beau Stephens, DB Kahlil Tate
  • Iowa players from the state of Michigan include: DB Brenden Deasfernandes, DB Koen Entringer (Walled Lake Western), FB Hayden Large (Unity Christian), DB Deshaun Lee (Belleville), K Marshall Meeder (Eaton Rapids), DL Kenneth Merrieweather (Detroit MLK), OL Daijon Parker (Westland John Glenn)
  • Iowa QB Cade McNamara and TE Erick All both transferred from Michigan to Iowa this past off-season, but both have suffered season-ending ACL injuries and will not play


  • On October 1, 2022, Michigan beat Iowa by a score of 27-14
  • QB J.J. McCarthy went 18/24 for 155 yards and 1 touchdown
  • RB Blake Corum ran 29 times for 133 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Iowa TE Luke Lachey caught 4 passes for 84 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Iowa P Tory Taylor averaged 48.2 yards/punt on 5 attempts


  • Michigan 27, Iowa 6

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