IOWA CITY, Iowa — It turns out that Iowa might have a say in the Big Ten title race after all.
By stunning Michigan 14-13 on Saturday, the Hawkeyes made it possible for a two-loss team to represent the powerful East division in the conference championship game — and for the once-unthinkable prospect of a 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) and Ohio State (9-1, 6-1) will determine the league’s playoff representative.
That’s because Penn State (8-2, 6-1), 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 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 in the next two weeks 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, finding itself it time to stun Big Blue.
“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 should be in the playoffs.
But the Wolverines’ resume still took a hit on Saturday.
Overshadowed by all of its big wins was the fact that Michigan didn’t have a single significant road win. Michigan State and Rutgers, the only teams Michigan had beaten away from Ann Arbor, had yet to win a Big Ten game until the Spartans throttled the Scarlet Knights on Saturday.
On a windy and chilly night in Iowa City, the Wolverines wilted.
The nation’s top-ranked scoring defense allowed Iowa to score a touchdown on fourth down on a perfectly timed screen pass.