Minnesota upsets Wisconsin, Iowa clinches berth to Big Ten Championship Game

The Hawkeyes are making their first trip to Indianapolis for the conference title game since 2015. Iowa will face Michigan for the Big Ten Championship next Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.


Jerod Ringwald

The Big Ten Championship Trophy is shown during day one of Big Ten Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Thursday, July 22.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Minnesota may hate Iowa but, as of Saturday night, the Hawkeyes love the Gophers.

The Iowa football team went into Saturday needing Minnesota to upset Wisconsin in order to win the Big Ten West outright. That’s exactly what happened. The Gophers defeated the Badgers, 23-13, in Minneapolis and as a result, the Hawkeyes are representing the West in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Iowa will play Michigan, the Big Ten East champion, next Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Wolverines upset No. 2 Ohio State, 42-27, on Saturday and finished the regular season with an 11-1 record. This is Iowa’s first Big Ten Championship Game appearance since 2015, and Michigan’s first-ever appearance in the game, which originated in 2011.

Iowa overcame a 15-point deficit and scored the final 22 points of its 28-21 win over Nebraska on Friday, which clinched the Hawkeyes at least a share of the Big Ten West. If Wisconsin won on Saturday, the Badgers would have also clinched a share of the West. In that case, Wisconsin would have represented the West in Indianapolis because of its head-to-head win over Iowa on Oct. 30.

The Hawkeyes finished the regular season 10-2 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten. The Badgers are 8-4 overall and 6-3 in the conference after Saturday’s loss.

“I feel like we earned it,” Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum said of clinching a share of the West on Friday while donning a “Big Ten West Champions” shirt. “We played our hearts out the whole year. No matter what the outcome is tomorrow, just proud of the guys. Proud of how we fought all year.”

Iowa started the season 6-0 and reached as high as No. 2 in the country in the Associated Press poll. Then, Iowa lost back-to-back games to Purdue and Wisconsin and lost the control of destiny to get back to Indianapolis. The Hawkeyes won their final four games of the regular season against Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, and Nebraska.

“It’s all about how you finish,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said on Friday. “It’s about staying with what you’re doing and then dealing with whatever challenges come your way.”

Wisconsin’s Scott Nelson intercepted Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan in the second quarter of Saturday’s game and returned in 26 yards for a touchdown. That was the difference early in the game. The Badgers led 10-6 at halftime. Morgan redeemed himself, though, tossing a go-ahead touchdown pass to Chris Autumn-Bell late in the third quarter to put the Gophers up, 20-13. Minnesota extended its lead with a field goal in the fourth quarter to go up 10 points.

The Badgers couldn’t cut into the Gopher lead in the fourth quarter. A Wisconsin field goal attempt bounced off the crossbar in the final quarter of play, and the Badgers could not convert on a fourth-down attempt with less than four minutes to play. 

The Hawkeyes and the Wolverines have not played since 2019, when Michigan won, 10-3. The two teams were supposed to play during the Big Ten’s Champion’sWeek last season, but Michigan could not play in the game because of positive COVID-19 cases within its program.

The Big Ten Championship Game will air at 7 p.m. next Saturday on FOX.

“If we do get the chance to go to the Big Ten Championship,” Iowa running back Tyler Goodson said on Friday, “we plan on winning that, too.”

Follow along at dailyiowan.com throughout the week for coverage of the game. A Pregame edition will also be on newsstands on Friday ahead of the game.

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