The Michigan Wolverines take on the Iowa Hawkeyes on tonight in the Big Ten Championship. It will be the second meeting between the two teams in the title game, as the Wolverines beat the Hawkeyes, 42-3, in 2021. That was the first of two straight Big Ten titles for Michigan and Saturday it will look to make it three in row.
We look at the three keys for the Wolverines to bring home another title and secure their spot in the College Football Playoff.
1. Avoid Turnovers
The strength of the Iowa team is its defense. The Hawkeyes are giving up just 12.2 points per game and have given up 16 or fewer in all but one game this year. They need the defense to be this good, as the offense has been bad all year long. Iowa is scoring just 18 points per game and has scored just 22 offensive touchdowns this season.
They Hawkeyes aren’t going to drive the ball on Michigan, so the Wolverines need to avoid turnovers which would give them a short field and an easier time to score. The Wolverines could get shut down some, but they are still going to be able to score on Iowa. They just have to avoid giving the Hawkeyes’ struggling offense easy opportunities on short fields.
2. Finish Drives
The Wolverines need to make sure they score touchdowns on their drives. The Hawkeyes thrive on limiting teams to just field goals and it keeps them in games that they find a way to win late. Iowa has the second-best red zone defense in the country, allowing touchdowns on just 37.5 percent of opponents’ appearances.
The Wolverines don’t want to let the Hawkeyes hang around, but if they only get field goals it will be a boost for the Iowa morale and keep them in the game. The Iowa offense struggles to score touchdowns, so if the Wolverines can finish even a couple drives with seven points, they should win the game easily.
3. Stay Focused
The Wolverines are a huge favorite in their attempt to win a third-straight Big Ten title and will make the College Football Playoff with a win. They have a lot to gain by winning the game, but also have a lot to lose; they will likely be out of the playoff with a loss, especially given the point spread heading into the weekend.
Michigan should win this game and make the playoff, but the Hawkeyes are not going to roll over and just accept defeat. The Wolverines have done a great job of staying focused all year, however, as they have dealt with so much outside noise. They just need to keep it up against a Hawkeyes team with nothing to lose.