NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan

No. 3 Michigan locked up a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game after handling No. 2 Ohio State 30-24 for its third straight victory over the rival Buckeyes to win the Big Ten East. The Wolverines will face off against Big Ten West champion No. 17 Iowa at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana

The Wolverines enter the title game as 21.5-point favorites and are searching for their third-straight crown. Michigan has not won three consecutive Big Ten championships since a stretch of six straight between Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller from 1988-92. 

Iowa is back in the title game for the second time in three seasons after edging out Nebraska 13-10 to reach 10 regular-season wins. The Hawkeyes had one of the most unbelievable seasons in recent memory, somehow reaching double-digit wins despite ranking last place nationally in total offense at just 246 yards per game. The mark sat more than 40 yards behind the next-closest power conference opponent (Michigan State). 

Since the current divisional alignment began in 2014, the Big Ten East is a perfect 9-0 against the Big Ten West. This also marks the sixth straight year the title game spread has reached double digits. However, this is the final year of the divisional alignment before four new teams push the Big Ten to 18 teams in 2024. Here's what you need to know about the 2023 Big Ten Championship Game. 

Series History

Michigan has won three straight matchups against Iowa, including a 42-3 whomping in the 2021 Big Ten Championship Game. The Hawkeyes last beat Michigan 14-13 in 2016 to keep the Wolverines out of the College Football Playoff with a 10-2 regular season record and controversial loss to Ohio State. However, Iowa has not beaten Michigan outside of Iowa City, Iowa, since 2010. 

Keys to the Game

Michigan has vastly outplayed its competition this season, but Iowa presents a unique challenge. The Hawkeyes rank No. 7 nationally in total defense and hold opponents to 4.04 yards per play. Michigan will be able to generate some offense, but it won't come easy. The Wolverines would benefit greatly from some chunk plays; Iowa is not built to play from behind. 

For Iowa, simply playing straightforward offense won't be enough. The Hawkeyes average just 18 points per game and were blanked against Penn State, the only ranked opponent on their schedule. Star defensive back and punt returner Cooper DeJean is out, too, meaning that Iowa will have to find different options to score points. Punter Tory Taylor will, as usual, play a critical role, but it might not be enough to stay competitive. 

Stakes for Michigan

Michigan is playing for its third straight trip to the College Football Playoff after finishing 12-0 in the regular season for the second consecutive year. The Wolverines have failed to pick up victories in either of their College Football Playoff appearances, but the 2023 squad has a case as the best of the Jim Harbaugh era. Speaking of Harbaugh, he will be back on the sidelines in the Big Ten title game after serving a three-game suspension for violating the Big Ten's sportsmanship policy amid the sign-stealing investigation. 

Stakes for Iowa

Iowa has put together an elite run under coach Kirk Ferentz, but the Hawkeyes have not won an outright conference championship since Hayden Fry's team in 1985. Ferentz's Iowa team have co-championships in 2002 and 2004, but a conference championship game victory has eluded the squad. Beating Michigan would give Ferentz the elusive win and send Iowa to a New Year's Six bowl for the first time since 2015.