Hawkeye, Wolverine offense look to limit turnovers in Big Ten Championship Game

The Michigan offense will go up against an Iowa secondary that has recorded 22 interceptions throughout the season.


Grace Smith

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell carries the ball to the end zone after an interception during a football game between No. 17 Iowa and Illinois at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Campbell had on interception on the day for 32 yards. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini 33-23 at the last home game of the season.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

The Big Ten Championship Game between Iowa and Michigan on Saturday will be a game of turnovers.

Or, perhaps a lack of them.

When Hawkeye and Wolverine players met with reporters on Monday afternoon, they stressed the importance of limiting turnovers — especially in a championship game.

“You always look at a team’s turnover, takeaway margin, and I feel like that speaks volumes,” Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell said. “And obviously, [Michigan’s] offense doesn’t have a lot of turnovers, and they take care of the ball, which is a sign of a talented and a smart team. So, I mean, I feel like it’s gonna be huge in a game like this. I feel like that’s going to be a major key in the game. Whoever comes out on top, I’m going to just assume right now that the turnover takeaway margin was probably in their favor.”

Iowa has turned the ball over 14 times in 12 games, with Hawkeye quarterbacks throwing seven interceptions. Starting quarterback Spencer Petras has thrown six interceptions on nine touchdowns, while backup Alex Padilla added one interception to the total. The Wolverines have forced 15 turnovers in 2021, including seven interceptions.

Throughout the season, Michigan has only turned the ball over nine times. The Wolverines rank 13th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 37.3 points per game.

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara, who has started all 12 games, has thrown 14 passing touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Now, in the Big Ten Championship Game, Iowa’s nationally leading secondary group will attempt to increase McNamara’s interception tally.

“As a defense, it’s all about being able to poke that ball out, or get an interception, or get a strip sack, or something like that,” Campbell said. “We know the challenge we’re up against, and we also know how big of plays those will be in this game. So, we just need to be on top of everything and take advantage of the opportunity when it comes up.”

Iowa ranks first in Division I football with 22 interceptions on the season. Overall, the Hawkeyes have forced 27 turnovers — third in the nation. Junior cash Dane Belton leads the Hawkeyes with five interceptions, while cornerback Riley Moss comes in with four.

RELATED: Spencer Petras listed as Iowa’s starting quarterback ahead of Big Ten Championship Game

Senior cornerback Matt Hankins, who has accumulated three interceptions, will not play in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday, per Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz. Hankins’ suffered a lower-body injury, and the last game was against Minnesota on Nov. 13.

Senior cornerback Terry Roberts, who has not played since Purdue on Oct. 16, is likely to play on Saturday, per head coach Kirk Ferentz.

The head Hawkeye did not specify Roberts’ role ahead of the conference championship. Moss and sophomore Jermari Harris are listed as Iowa’s starting cornerbacks on the depth chart. Harris has two interceptions this season.

“Iowa’s a good defense,” Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara said. “They’ve had success getting interceptions this season. The thing that, you know, the offense that we have here in Michigan, we pride ourselves on not turning the ball over. So, I think this will be for sure, a good challenge for us. Iowa’s a good defense and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

The Hawkeyes will face off against the Wolverines at 7:17 p.m. on Dec. 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title.

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