Big Ten Championship Best Bets, Predictions: Our Staff’s Picks for #2 Michigan vs. #16 Iowa
Getty Images. Design by Cyriel Klitsie/Action Network. Pictured (left to right): Iowa’s Kaleb Brown, Leshon Williams and Kirk Ferentz. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, J.J. McCarthy and Blake Corum.
- Michigan faces Iowa on Saturday night with a Big Ten Conference title on the line.
- The Hawkeyes enter as an underdog of +22.5, while the over/under is the lowest of Championship Week at 35.5.
- Check out our predictions and best bets for the Michigan vs. Iowa over/under and spread below.
Big Ten Championship Odds & Best Bets
By Pete Ruden
The sky was pitch black in Iowa City on Nov. 12, 2016, and Kinnick Stadium was silent. But not for very long.
With Iowa trailing No. 3 Michigan, 14-11, walk-on kicker Keith Duncan drilled a 33-yard field goal to give the Hawkeyes an unthinkable 14-11 win.
𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘢𝘸𝘬𝘦𝘺𝘦𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘶𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘰𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘴! 🗣️🎙️#OTD in 2016, Keith Duncan hit a walk-off FG to help Iowa hand No. 3 Michigan to its first loss.@keithdunc3 x @HawkeyeFootballpic.twitter.com/9fKfrxUv0o
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) November 12, 2023
Seven years later, the Hawkeyes have the opportunity to relive their past.
Iowa entered that Saturday in 2016 as a three-touchdown favorite. This Saturday, the Hawkeyes will face Michigan as a 21.5-point underdog with a Big Ten title on the line.
But this is a different Wolverines team.
Michigan has rolled all season, leading the Big Ten in scoring offense at 37.6 points per game and scoring defense at 10.3 points per game.
The Wolverines’ season has been marred by a sign-stealing scandal and head coach Jim Harbaugh serving suspensions, but that hasn’t kept them from cruising with their “Michigan vs. Everybody” mentality.
On the other side, the Hawkeyes have quietly done the same.
The offense has been the subject of punchlines across the nation for 14 weeks, and the announcement that offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz would be relieved of his duties following the season only amplified the attention on this unit.
Yet, Phil Parker’s defense and LeVar Woods’ special teams units have simultaneously propelled the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis and silenced the doubters who said they don’t deserve to be there.
With the largest spread and lowest total of Championship Week, we polled our staff for its picks. Our writers came to a consensus on the favorite, as well as a rare Iowa over.
Check out our full breakdown for both Big Ten Championship picks below.
Michigan vs. Iowa Spread
By Cody Goggin
This poll is one of the most indecisive I've seen from our staff, as 31.3% of the votes were coin-flips. However, in the end, the majority of votes are taking the Wolverines.
This is obviously a huge spread to be laying in any game, much less in a conference championship game. However, Michigan has proven that it's once again one of the top teams in the country and deserving of the respect it's getting in the market.
The last time these two teams met in the Big Ten Championship was 2021, when Michigan cruised to a 42-3 victory.
Iowa has made it to Indianapolis on the back of its stout defense. It's held opponents to 12.2 points per game this year, which ranks fourth in the nation.
The Hawkeyes rank fifth in Success Rate Allowed, second in explosiveness and third in Finishing Drives. They've been great against both the run and the pass, ranking 12th in Rushing Success Rate and seventh in Passing Success Rate Allowed.
However, Michigan’s offense will be a different animal from what Iowa is used to facing. The only team that eclipsed 20 points against Iowa this season was Penn State, which scored 31.
While Iowa’s defense is undoubtedly impressive, most of its schedule has not been against great offenses by any means. Michigan will be the best offense the Hawkeyes have faced this season, and it remains to be seen whether or not they'll be able to hold up against this level of competition.
This Michigan offense ranks eighth in Success Rate and sixth in Finishing Drives this season. It's also fifth in preventing Havoc and should be able to keep J.J. McCarthy clean against this Iowa defense.
This is one of the better passing offenses in the country, ranking second in Passing Success Rate.
I’m sure the primary reason our staff leans toward Michigan in this matchup is Iowa’s offensive ineptitude.
For how good the Iowa defense is, its offense is equally bad. The Hawkeyes rank dead last in the country in Offensive Success Rate, including marks of 131st on the ground and 122nd through the air.
Michigan’s defense is great and should be able to overpower Iowa’s offensive attack. This has been made evident in the betting market, as Iowa’s implied point total is just 6.3 points based on the numbers as of writing.
You have to really pinch your nose to bet Michigan, but if you think Iowa will stay in single digits or potentially get shut out, then it makes sense to take the Wolverines to win big here.
Michigan vs. Iowa Over/Under
By Doug Ziefel
Our staff is bucking the trend of taking low-total unders, as 56% of us are on the over in the Big Ten Championship.
This majority may seem surprising, especially when oddsmakers have almost no faith in the Iowa offense. The Hawkeyes have a team total of just 6.5 and a startling first-half team total of 0.5.
It's clear we're leaning on Michigan to carry the load here, and it's certainly shown it can. The Wolverines are averaging 37.6 points per game this season, and on that basis, they could cash the over by themselves.
However, they'll need some help from the Hawkeyes. Iowa will keep the ball on the ground and look to muscle its way into scoring position. While many of its drives may end in field goals, any contribution from the offense will be welcome.
This is a matchup where the defense could help on the scoreboard as well. Michigan is No. 1 in defensive interception rate, and Deacon Hill has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes on the season.
However, the same goes for the Hawkeyes defense. While the Wolverines are unlikely to turn the ball over, Iowa is known for exceptional punting, and winning the field-position battle will create shorter fields for the offense.
More Ways to Bet Michigan vs. Iowa
Iowa has yet to give up an opening-score touchdown to a Power 5 program this season.
And if Michigan marches down the field, it'll have to score in the red zone against one of the very best defenses in all of college football. Iowa finished the regular season second in red-zone touchdown percentage defense.
Usually, with a field-goal prop bet like this, you have to worry about two things.
The first is the other side scoring first. Luckily, Iowa’s poverty offense is so bad that its first-half total is set at 0.5 points. That’s the lowest first-half total in college football conference championship game history.
The other side of this is worrying about a Michigan touchdown, and as mentioned, Iowa makes life very difficult on opposing offenses inside its 20 and ranks second nationally in limiting explosive plays.
On the other side of that coin, Michigan is 112th in creating explosive opportunities.
If you want to get even more daring with this play, you can head over to FanDuel and play a first-drive parlay. If you select Iowa to punt on its opening drive and Michigan to simply attempt a field goal, that pays out at 7-1.
From a game-script perspective, that seems like the second-most likely outcome after punt/punt and is priced attractively.
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