Michigan shuts out the Iowa Hawkeyes en route to its third-straight Big Ten Championship. The 26-0 victory solidified a second-straight undefeated Big Ten season for Michigan. It wasn’t an explosive game by any means, but Michigan took advantage of the situations Iowa handed it. The Wolverines scored just two touchdowns on the day, both coming on short fields. Iowa’s defense allowed just 66 rushing yards but was routinely put in adverse situations. Michigan’s win will put it in the College Football Playoff for the third-straight season, and it will likely be heading to Pasadena for its semifinal matchup. Iowa is now 10-3 and will have one more game in front of it this season, likely in warmer weather.
Short Field Touchdowns
Michigan’s offense didn’t have to do much to win this game. The Wolverines took a 17-0 lead midway through the third quarter to virtually ice the game, and the two touchdowns came on drives of five and six yards, respectively. On a 52-yard Tory Taylor punt, Michigan’s Semaj Morgan returned the kick 87 yards to the Iowa five-yard line. Two plays later, Blake Corum punched it in.
Iowa faced a tough field position later in the game in the third quarter. Deacon Hill was hit as he threw the football, and the ball was ruled incomplete. Michigan’s Josh Wallace picked up the ball and handed it to the official at the Iowa 12-yard line after the whistle. The replay determined that the throw was actually a fumble. But Hill’s arm did appear to be moving forward when it was knocked loose. Regardless, the officiating crew ruled it a fumble and gave Michigan the ball because of the clear recovery by Wallace. The questionable call had the Iowa sideline outraged.
Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz was livid on the sideline. He argued that the play had been blown dead before the recovery. Ferentz had a point. The review showed the official ruling incomplete before the ball was picked up. Furthermore, the sideline blowup led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and gave Michigan a few more yards on top of it. Corum punched it in for his second touchdown of the day, and school-record 55th touchdown of his career. Ultimately, two drives totaling 11 yards produced 14 points for the Wolverines.
Iowa’s Defensive Performance
The Hawkeye defense played one of its better games against the number two team in the nation. Iowa had four tackles for loss, four sacks, and allowed just 3.3 yards per play. Jay Higgins finished with 14 tackles, and Ethan Hurkett sacked JJ McCarthy for a loss of 16 yards. Hurkett’s huge tackle for loss set up a Michigan punt and gave Iowa its best field position of the day at the Michigan 38-yard line. It was the only Iowa possession that would reach inside the Wolverine 40.
Michigan began three drives inside the Iowa 15-yard line, resulting in 17 points. However, two of them were set up on fumbles by Iowa’s Hill. The other was set up on the 87-yard punt return. None were the fault of the defense. If you take those drives out, the defense allowed just nine points, forced six punts, and gave up just 180 yards on 61 plays. That is an average of just 2.9 yards per play on those drives. This Hawkeye defense is one of the best in the nation, and it held the number two team in the country to under 220 total yards. No other team held Michigan under 287 yards this season, and Iowa cleared that by more than half of a football field.
The 10-3 Hawkeyes will receive a bowl invitation tomorrow on Selection Sunday. It’s likely to be the Citrus Bowl against an SEC team. If not, the 10-win season should earn the Hawkeyes a warm-weather, New Year’s Day bowl game. It’s not the ending that the Hawkeyes wanted, being shut out in the conference title game. However, just being in this game was significant. This program fought through injuries, adversity, and an offensive coordinator firing situation to represent the Big Ten West in the final conference title game of this format.