On Saturday (12/2/23), Michigan faces Iowa in a monumental Big Ten championship. In this article, find the latest betting odds for the game and a full matchup preview. In addition, find our best bet for Michigan vs. Iowa, which is the Iowa team total under 6.5 points.
Michigan Wolverines Vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Prediction
Fresh off a program-defining 30-24 win over their biggest rival, the Michigan Wolverines are on their way to winning their third straight Big Ten title. They travel to Indianapolis for the championship game, where they’ll face an Iowa team representing the Big Ten West for the last time as the conference moves to a divisionless format next year.
Michigan and Iowa met in the Big Ten title game two years ago, and it was a decisive 42-3 win for the Wolverines. The sportsbooks are expecting another dominant win for Michigan with a spread of 22 points, but the total sits at a mind-numbingly low 35 points. That would be the lowest total ever in a conference championship game.
Iowa unders have been cashing all season as each of their last seven games have gone under, seeing an average of 23.9 points scored. They’re a staggering 40-19-1 to the under since 2019, good for a 67.8% hit rate. With all of that in mind, the under certainly appears to be the right play on the surface.
However, I’d rather go with a more granular approach and simply fade what might be the worst offense in the country. Iowa ranks dead last in offensive EPA and success rate, and it’s led to just 18 points per game, which is the 10th-fewest in the country. Meanwhile, Michigan leads the FBS in scoring defense, allowing 10.2 points per game.
Iowa’s offense was likely always going to be a rough watch this year, but it certainly doesn’t help that quarterback Cade McNamara and tight ends Luke Lachey and Erick All were lost for the season. McNamara and All were part of Michigan’s Big Ten titles each of the last two seasons, so it’s especially sad that reunion couldn’t take place here.
Ultimately, I believe the best bet in this game is fading Iowa’s inept offense against arguably the best defense in the country. While I believe Michigan covers this spread, they play at the second-slowest pace in the country with 30.9 seconds per play, and I’m expecting a very conservative approach from them here. The Wolverines will likely lean heavily on their run game that features the dynamic Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.
Michigan could also enter this game hell-bent on running up the score after everything that transpired with the Big Ten and the sign-stealing scandal. Rather than attempt to handicap that aspect of the game, let’s bet Iowa to finish with less than 6.5 points scored with a shutout more likely than the Hawkeyes scoring an offensive touchdown.
Michigan Vs. Iowa Prediction: Iowa Under 6.5 Points
Michigan Vs. Iowa Best Odds
The current spread has Michigan favored by 22 points with an over/under of 35 points, which would be the lowest ever recorded for a conference championship game. Those numbers lead to an implied score of about 28-6 in favor of Michigan. The last two Big Ten championships have been decided by 39 and 20 points, respectively, so a lopsided result like that is far from unprecedented.
Michigan Vs. Iowa Key Matchups
While the spread indicates this will be a Michigan blowout, there are some intriguing matchups to take stock of in this game. Specifically, let’s break down how things could play out for each team’s starting quarterback as they head into Indianapolis.
Deacon Hill Vs. Michigan’s Pass Defense
Without McNamara, Iowa has turned to Deacon Hill under center, who might be the worst quarterback in the FBS. Hill’s 40.1 PFF passing grade is dead last out of 162 qualified FBS passers, while his 4.9 yards per attempt and 59 passer rating rank second-worst. He has recorded just one big-time throw to 14 turnover-worthy plays.
Hill faces his toughest test of the season this week as Michigan ranks fifth in passing EPA/play allowed this year. Michigan’s potent secondary is led by potential All-American cornerback Will Johnson and ranks 3rd in PFF’s coverage grades. The Wolverines also rank 5th in pass rush grades and first in tackling, leaving little room to breathe for opposing passing games.
J.J. McCarthy Vs. Iowa’s Pass Defense
While it wasn’t his best statistical output of the season, J.J. McCarthy is coming off arguably his best performance as Michigan’s quarterback. McCarthy faced an elite Ohio State defense and put it all on display, making several pro-level throws, including an insane touchdown pass threaded between two defenders in the tightest of windows.
Things don’t get much easier this week against Iowa’s third-ranked coverage unit. The Hawkeyes rank top eight in passing EPA and success rate allowed. Top cornerback Cooper DeJean is out for the season, but the secondary is still loaded as cornerback Sebastian Castro and safety Xavier Nwankpa have been among the best players in the country at their respective positions.