Iowa Advances to Big Ten Championship

Iowa Advances to Big Ten Championship

The Hawkeyes’ victory on Black Friday secured them a share of the Big Ten West for the first time since 2015. Iowa won the West division outright that year after a 12-0 season that was capped off with a trip to the Rose Bowl. This year’s 10-2 finish was the second ten-win season in three years for the Hawkeyes, and it had the potential to turn into more. After the win in Lincoln, all attention turned to Minneapolis for the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe on Saturday. Wisconsin played Minnesota in a low-scoring battle, and the Golden Gophers came away with a 23-13 victory. The Gopher win means that Iowa advances to the Big Ten Championship for the second time since the title game began in 2011. The Hawkeyes will play the Michigan Wolverines, who defeated Ohio State on Saturday for the first time in a decade. 

Minnesota Wins Axe

Wisconsin entered Saturday’s rivalry game against Minnesota with a 6-2 conference record, needing a victory to advance to Indianapolis. A Badger win would have tied Iowa for the lead in the Big Ten West. Earlier in the season, Wisconsin dominantly beat the Hawkeyes, winning 27-7. They held Iowa to just 17 first-half yards, and completely shut down Spencer Petras and the Hawkeye offense. Petras would leave the game late with a shoulder injury. The Hawkeyes subsequently gave up their control of the division in the loss. 

With a win against Minnesota, Wisconsin’s head-to-head victory over Iowa would have given them the tiebreaker against Iowa. The tiebreaker would have sent the Badgers to Indianapolis for the seventh time. However, the Golden Gophers emerged victorious against the Badgers on Saturday night in the Twin Cities, sending the Hawkeyes to the championship game.

Big Ten Championship Game

In one week, Iowa will travel to Lucas Oil Stadium to play the 11-1 Michigan Wolverines in a unique rendition of the Big Ten Championship. Michigan has never played in the championship game despite their successful seasons in past years. They have come up short against their East division rivals of late, but their 2021 campaign was different. The Hawkeyes have played in one Big Ten Championship game in program history and it came against Michigan State. Iowa suffered a last-minute loss to the Spartans back in 2015 and missed a trip to the College Football Playoff.

Jim Harbaugh and Kirk Ferentz will face each other for the first time since the 2016 season. The Hawkeyes beat the number two ranked Wolverines that year in walk-off fashion inside Kinnick Stadium. Keith Duncan connected on a 33-yard field goal as time expired and Hawkeye fans rushed the field. In 2020, Iowa and Michigan were paired up to play in Champions Weekend following the shortened season, but the game was canceled due to COVID protocols. It will be a heavily anticipated rematch between the two old-school coaches in Indianapolis next week. The Iowa Hawkeyes advance to the Big Ten Championship after a uniquely successful 2021 football season.