Michigan’s loss to Iowa jumbles Big Ten race
Penn State joins Wolverines, Ohio State atop East Division
IOWA CITY, IOWA — It turns out that Iowa might have a say in the Big Ten Conference title race after all.
By stunning Michigan, 14-13, on Saturday night, the Hawkeyes made it possible for a two-loss team to represent the East Division in the conference championship game — and for the onceunthinkable prospect of a College Football Playoff without the Big Ten.
It can no longer be assumed that the annual rivalry game between the Wolverines (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten, No. 3 in the CFP rankings) and Ohio State (9-1, 6-1, No. 6 in CFP) will determine the league’s playoff representative.
That’s because Penn State (8-2, 6-1, No. 10 in CFP), which beat the Buckeyes two weeks ago, has joined Michigan and Ohio State atop the East.
If Michigan wins out, including beating Ohio State in the regular-season finale in two weeks, the Wolverines move on to the Big Ten title game. If Ohio State and Penn State win out, the Nittany Lions would win the East, leaving the Buckeyes out of a chance to win the conference title while likely being the Big Ten’s highest ranked team.
A loss by Penn State to either Rutgers or Michigan State is what Ohio State needs to regain control of the East.
That seems unlikely, but so was the idea of Iowa (6-4, 4-3), a 24-point underdog, stunning the Wolverines.
“Give Iowa credit. They tackled. They blocked. They played a very good football game. So, congratulate them and we move on,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.
That’s exactly what Michigan needs to do, because if it wins out, it will likely be in the playoffs. But the Wolverines’ resume still took a hit Saturday.
On the biggest play from scrimmage, the Wolverines let Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard run for a first down that set up Keith Duncan’s game-winning 33-yard field goal.
Michigan’s offense, which had scored 49 points against Penn State, 78 against Rutgers and 59 against Maryland, gained just 201 yards. Wilton Speight was just 11-for-26 passing and threw an interception to true freshman Manny Rugamba late in the fourth quarter.
“There’s absolutely no excuse. We’ve got to be a lot better than we” were Saturday, tight end Jake Butt said.
Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2, No. 7 in CFP), by virtue of its win over Nebraska (8-2, 5-2, No. 19 in CFP), is in position to face whatever team the East sends to Indianapolis for the title game.