Michigan is 11-1 and Iowa is 10-2 heading into this weekend Big Ten Championship game. The Wolverines are favored by a pretty large 11 points after their impressive win over the Buckeyes last weekend.
John Bohnenkamp covers Iowa football for Inside The Hawkeyes and has been doing so for seven years. He's an expert on all things Iowa and really gave some great insight into Iowa's style of play and expectations for tomorrow's game. Michigan fans won't like his prediction, but the info he provided is as good as it gets.
The Hawkeyes are at their best on defense and special teams.
Iowa ranks ninth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 17.2 points per game. But where the Hawkeyes have been the most effective is the ability to get turnovers. They forced 27 turnovers this season, the most in the Big Ten and third most in the nation. Safety Dane Belton, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, leads the nation with five interceptions. Cornerback Riley Moss, the Big Ten’s defensive back of the year, has four interceptions, taking back two for touchdowns in the season opener against Indiana.
The Hawkeyes have been efficient on special teams. Kicker Caleb Shudak leads the Big Ten in field goals per game, while punter Tory Taylor averages 45.8 yards per punt. Charlie Jones was named the conference’s return specialist of the year, averaging 26.3 yards on kickoff returns.
The Hawkeyes have done just enough offensively to win games this season, a constant problem that has been overcome by plays on the other side of the ball. The Hawkeyes rank 106th nationally in rushing offense, 110th in passing offense, and 123rd in total offense.
The offensive line is anchored by center Tyler Linderbaum, an All-American candidate, but there’s been plenty of mixing and matching around him. The line has been playing better of late, but the progress has been slow.
Spencer Petras is back as the starting quarterback after missing two starts because of a sore shoulder suffered in the 27-7 loss to Wisconsin on October 30. Alex Padilla started in his place, and while he is a more mobile quarterback, his accuracy has suffered at times. Padilla became a fan favorite, but Petras was the one who rallied the Hawkeyes to the 28-21 win over Nebraska in the final game of the regular season.
Three Players To Know
LB Jack Campbell, No. 31
Campbell averaged 10.3 tackles per game, and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media, but for some reason was a third-team selection by the coaches. He has controlled Iowa’s defense all season, a constant maker of big players.
CB Riley Moss, No. 33
Moss has grown from his true freshman season, when he was thrown into significant playing time midway through the season and paid the price at the time for his inexperience. His two touchdown returns against Indiana started this season for him, but he missed time with a knee injury that has hampered him since his return.
C Tyler Linderbaum, No. 65
The one consistent on Iowa’s offensive line has been Linderbaum, who began his career as a defensive lineman, then moved to the offensive line during preparation for the 2019 Outback Bowl. The following season, he was the starting center and has never left the lineup. Linderbaum has been a quiet influence among the Hawkeyes’ younger offensive lineman. He’s a play-to-the-whistle blocker, which can aggravate opposing defenders, but he’s fun to watch.
Iowa has confounded everyone all season. The Hawkeyes rose to No. 2 in the national polls before back-to-back losses to Purdue and Wisconsin set them back. Still, they are one of those teams that when they win a game, you look back on it and wonder just how it got done. The win over Nebraska last Friday got them into position to get into this spot, and Minnesota’s win over Wisconsin clinched it for them. Now they must figure out a way to generate enough points against the Wolverines. This game will be won or lost on the offensive line, but special teams and defense might be able to find enough points to make this interesting. The longer the Hawkeyes stay around, the better their chances in this one. I’ve been picking them in games all year, and they’ve gone 10-2.