WHO: #2 Michigan Wolverines (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten)
WHEN: 7:15 PM CT (Saturday, December 2, 2023)
WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN)
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft)
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network (Gary Dolphin, Ed Podolak, Rob Brooks) | Sirius/XM 84
FOLLOW: @IowaAwesome | @HawkeyeFootball | @CFBONFOX | @IowaonBTN
WEATHER: n/a (dome)
LINE: Michigan -22.0 (total of 34.5)
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Ten minutes before Vivek Ramaswamy was to take the stage in a dated casino hotel in western Iowa, no one was in the conference room except for two staffers from the Iowa GOP, which organized the event, and a group of journalists.
Guests started trickling in at the time the event was scheduled. By the time Ramaswamy began his remarks an hour later, there were about 60 people.
While Ramaswamy is packing his schedule with stops across Iowa, he has failed to move up in the 2024 Republican primary race and is increasingly at risk of becoming an afterthought. He is polling in the mid to high single digits and has left critics asking what his endgame is or if he is staying in the race only to boost former President Donald Trump.
Ramaswamy is falling behind just as the GOP campaign enters the critical final weeks before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15. After an earlier flurry of attention, the 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur and first-time political candidate is gaining more notice for his provocations in debates than for signs that his campaign is resonating with voters.
“If viability were the reason to stay in a race, he’s long since left that behind,” said David Kochel, a Republican strategist who advised Jeb Bush in his 2016 presidential bid. “If you like Vivek Ramaswamy and what he is saying in this campaign, you already have a candidate, and his name is Donald Trump.”
Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are increasingly going after each other as they vie for a distant second place, competing for donors and voters open to a Trump alternative. Former Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott dropped out after running Iowa-focused campaigns that didn’t gain traction.
Ramaswamy’s campaign said in early November that it would spend up to $8 million in advertising through the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15. So far, the campaign has booked just $162,000 in broadcast and digital ads for the rest of the Iowa campaign, according to data from the media tracking firm AdImpact.
Haley and her allied super PAC have reserved nearly $3.5 million over that same period, while DeSantis and his allied super PAC have booked more than $3.3 million.
Tricia McLaughlin, Ramaswamy’s campaign spokeswoman, said that events hosted by the campaign are drawing more people lately, noting that a sizable number of eventgoers are not registered as Republicans.
“We are reaching young people,” she said. “These people are taking the time and effort to come out. These people are not even being polled because they are not your typical caucusgoer.”
Ramaswamy has suggested policy ideas that he says carry on Trump’s “America First” legacy without the former president’s baggage.
At a Florida GOP event earlier this month, Ramaswamy arguably drew the most cheers when his pitch was that he was the Republican candidate who had been most supportive of Trump.
“I have respected Donald Trump more than anybody else in this race because he was the best president of the 21st century,” Ramaswamy said. “I said that before, and I will say it again because it’s the right thing to do. We will honor that legacy.”
Trump remains dominant, even as he faces four criminal indictments and questions about whether he can beat President Joe Biden after losing to him in 2020.
After the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel, Ramaswamy has fielded criticism for not being as staunchly pro-Israel as the other GOP candidates. Two days after Hamas’ attack, he suggested the U.S. withhold aid to Israel until its government detailed plans for Gaza. Republican voters align heavily with Israel.
Voters and strategists critical of Ramaswamy bring up his position on Israel, but also his age and faith.
Ramaswamy is Hindu and would be the first non-Christian elected president. Iowa’s Republican voters are mostly white and Christian, with evangelicals carrying huge influence in the caucuses.
The gathering in the Council Bluffs hotel kicked off with an opening prayer that ended with “in the name of our savior Jesus Christ.” The crowd responded with a collective “amen.”
While he was cheered and applauded for some of his remarks, when he opened up about his religion, he was met with silence.
“I’d be the first Hindu president that we had in the United States,” he said. “I’ll tell you about my faith. I believe in one true God. I believe that God put each of us here for a purpose, that we have a moral duty to live out that purpose.”
Ramaswamy did not take questions from either the audience or reporters. Many people in the audience declined to speak to an Associated Press reporter afterward.
Rebecca Wilkerson, a 52-year-old voter from Mondamin, Iowa, said most of her friends and family are still supporting Trump like she did over the past seven years, but she is now looking for a change, saying Trump is too old for the White House at 77. She became a Ramaswamy supporter despite those around her feeling apprehensive about his religion.
“They can’t get past the fact that he’s Hindu,” Wilkerson said. “But I’m not voting based on that. I like his policies, and that’s what I care about in a president.”
The next day, Ramaswamy attended a roundtable with Haley and DeSantis hosted by Bob Vander Plaats, an influential Iowa Christian activist. In what was billed as a “family discussion,” the three candidates addressed each other by first name and avoided going after each other. Vander Plaats asked each of them faith-related questions.
“I think it’s only fair to address what I believe is your highest hurdle from what I’m hearing,” Vander Plaats told Ramaswamy. “We don’t share the same faith. I’m a Christian. You’re a Hindu, and you centered your campaign on truth. So a question a lot of the caucusgoers have is, what truth?”
Ramaswamy said he was grateful for the question. Holding in his lap his 3-year-old son, Karthik, Ramaswamy repeated what he told the room in Council Bluffs, that he believed in one true God and that God “put each of us here for a purpose.”
“My faith teaches me that we have a duty, a moral duty, to realize that purpose, that we’re God’s instruments,” he said. “He works through us in different ways, but we are still equal because God resides in each of us.”
Ron Bonjean, a GOP strategist and former top congressional aide, noted Ramaswamy has been trying to build off the momentum built in the first debate, when he grabbed the spotlight introducing himself as a skinny guy with a hard-to-pronounce name. He then declared he was the only person on the stage who wasn’t bought and paid for.
“He’s being aggressive. He’s trying to do all the right things to get noticed, to showcase to voters that he’s a Trump alternative,” Bonjean said, adding his effort is to be seen as a “Trump mini-me.”
“He is excellent at debating other candidates on stage, but he can’t back it up with real-world leadership and government experience,” he added.
Lisa Unnerstall, 63, a Republican voter from Fort Myers, Florida, said she likes Ramaswamy and would like to see him serve in Trump’s Cabinet because of his “forward thinking.” But she said her first and second choices are Trump and DeSantis.
“I’m concerned with his age,” Unnerstall said of Ramaswamy. “I don’t think that a person necessarily has to be a long-time politician in order to become president. Obviously, I voted for Trump. He was not a politician. So I really think it’s more about life experience.”
Gomez Licon reported from Miami. Associated Press writer Chad Day in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Donald Trump calls for Iowa supporters to caucus, says ‘nothing’s over’ for 2024 – Iowa Capital Dispatch
CEDAR RAPIDS — With six weeks left until the Iowa caucuses, former president Donald Trump largely spent his time in Iowa criticizing President Joe Biden instead of going after his Republican rivals — but told supporters to not listen to claims that the primary is already “over.”
“Don’t listen to that, don’t listen,” Trump said. “Nothing’s over. I’ve seen things that are over and bad things can happen. You got to get to the polls, you’ve got to get in the caucus and you’ve got to do your job and we’re going to win.”
The former president addressed a crowd at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids Saturday afternoon, taking over the college’s basketball court and bleachers for the rally.
He accused the current administration of weaponizing the government and justice system against a political opponent — himself. Trump currently faces criminal and civil cases in multiple states, and some state courts are deliberating whether Trump can be kept off the ballot in 2024.
“This campaign is a righteous crusade to liberate our republic from Biden and the criminals in the Biden administration,” Trump told the crowd.
Trump waved off comments from national media claiming Democrats want him to become the GOP nominee because they believe Biden would win in a 2020 rematch.
“If they wanted to run against me, they wouldn’t have indicted me four times,” Trump said.
According to aggregated poll data from Real Clear Politics, Trump leads the Republican field at 47% in Iowa, and 62% nationally. But other candidates hope to use the Iowa caucuses to stop Trump from coasting to the nomination. At the same time as Trump’s event in Cedar Rapids, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held an event in Newton, completing the s0-called “full Grassley” by holding events in all 99 Iowa counties.
DeSantis, who holds a distant second place to Trump in some national and early state polls, is hoping to pull an upset at the Iowa caucuses. He has the support of influential Iowa Republicans like Gov. Kim Reynolds, Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats and state lawmakers like House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, who joined him at the Saturday event.
Vander Plaats has said DeSantis’ caucus performance will set the stage for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination cycle. If Trump wins Iowa, Vander Plaats said, it likely means Trump will easily win the nomination. But if a rival like DeSantis wins, he said, it means there’s appetite among Republicans for a serious race.
“If one of these others rises up to be the alternative to Trump, and they win the Iowa caucuses, I think now America’s gonna see game on,” Vander Plaats said. “And they’re going to have to make a choice, of who do they want to be their nominee? So they got Iowa is very crucial in this go-around.”
Trump’s campaign hopes to stave off a potentially more competitive 2024 nominating cycle by winning big in Iowa.
Before the president took the stage, campaign videos explaining how to caucus for Trump on Jan. 15, 2024 played on a screen above the stage. A panel of Iowa GOP leaders and Trump caucus captains answered common questions about Iowa Republicans’ caucus process.
Trump has also focused on combatting Reynolds’ endorsement specifically — he has criticized both Reynolds and DeSantis for “disloyalty” on social media, as he endorsed both of their gubernatorial reelection campaigns in 2022.
On Friday, his campaign launched a six-figure TV ad buy in Iowa that included a commercial featuring previous footage of Reynolds praising the Trump administration, ABC News reported. But in Iowa Saturday, the former president repeated his criticisms of Reynolds’ support for DeSantis.
““I mean, that was her choice to do this,” Trump said. “But I believe in loyalty.”
Bill Stilich, a retired teacher from Cedar Rapids area, said he believes Trump will easily win the Iowa caucuses, regardless of DeSantis’ Iowa endorsements or recent voter interest in former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Stilich said he believes Republicans going against Trump will do more to hurt their own political prospects than Trump’s 2024 campaign.
Stilich said he was a big supporter of Reynolds until her endorsement of the Florida governor in November.
“It definitely hurt her …. yet, by the same token, she’s done a lot for the state,” he said. “But I just don’t appreciate her as much.”
Trump’s campaign also featured Iowa endorsers, including Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird and former acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who called for Iowans to show up to the caucuses.
Mark Lucas, the founder of the Iowa chapter for Americans for Prosperity, endorsed Trump at the Cedar Rapids event. Lucas, who is no longer affiliated with AFP, said he was disappointed that the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity PAC put their support behind Haley. Though Lucas said he was a big proponent of the Iowa caucuses, he believed the 2024 primary was “done.”
He said Trump was the biggest threat to President Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential election, claiming that Biden was “weaponizing” government to hurt Trump’s election, pointing to the former president’s legal battles and efforts to remove Trump from state ballots.
“The stakes in this election cycle are just too high for me to stand on the sidelines,” Lucas said.
Iowa bar has beer promotion for Big Ten championship: Free drinks till Hawkeyes score
A Cedar Rapids bar is putting more faith in the Iowa offense than the majority of college football this season.
X-Golf, an indoor golf simulation bar, is rolling out a promotion that is as Big Ten as it gets: free beer from kickoff of the Big Ten Championship until Iowa scores against Michigan. That score can, for what it’s worth, come from the offense or defense. X-Golf can swing it, probably, but it’s an interesting marketing tactic for the 124th-ranked offense in the country.
The last time Michigan (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) played Iowa in a Big Ten championship game, it took until 1:26 left in the first quarter for Iowa to put points on the board with a Caleb Shudak field goal. Iowa, which lost that game 42-3, is hoping for earlier success this season.
The over/under for Michigan-Iowa this week is 35.5, with Michigan entering as 21.5-point favorites per BetMGM. The 10-2 Hawkeyes (7-2 in Big Ten) are looking to control the pace of the game and pull off a tremendous upset.
REQUIRED READING: Iowa football bowl outlook: Where will the Hawkeyes land after Big Ten title game?
X-Golf co-owner Bryant Nicholson said this isn’t the first time the promotion has been run, but it’s now getting attention due to the status of the game.
“One of the owners thought of this to get people in during Hawkeye games,” Nicholson said, per Jack Lido of KCRG. “We’ve done it the past few weeks! We’re not nervous at all and confident in our Hawkeyes! Hawks by a million! (Ends if the defense scores too!)”
Iowa had several record-breakingly-low over/unders this season, and has scored 20-plus points just once since Oct. 14 (22-0 over Rutgers on Nov. 11).
Ultimately, X-Golf needs Iowa to score early, not often. If not, it could be a long night for some fans in Cedar Rapids. One other important thing to note: The promotion does specify it only runs until the end of the game. So there will not be beer served for free throughout December, until a bowl game — sorry, loophole seekers.
Go Iowa Awesome – PREVIEW: Iowa vs Michigan football (Big Ten Champ. Game)
WHO: #2 Michigan Wolverines (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten)
The stakes are clear for this game: either Iowa pulls off the biggest upset in the history of the Big Ten Championship Game and wins its first outright Big Ten title since 2004 or Michigan wins its third straight Big Ten title and rolls into the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines are prohibitive favorites to win the game (-22), while the Hawkeyes are massive underdogs. On paper, this game looks like an utter mismatch. Can Iowa make the on-field game more competitive than the on-paper version?
WHEN MICHIGAN HAS THE BALL
Michigan ranks 13th in scoring offensive, at 37.6 ppg, although the Wolverines are just 59th in total offense, at 394.5 yards per game. The Wolverines’ yards-per-play average of 6.36 ranks 33rd nationally. Michigan ranks 53rd in rushing offense, at 169.8 yards per game, and 56th in yards per carry, at 4.44. The Wolverines’ 33 touchdowns on the ground is tied for third-best in the nation.
The main man in the Michigan ground game has been senior RB Blake Corum, who is fourth in the Big Ten with 976 yards rushing (4.8 yards per carry), but has a staggering 22 rushing touchdowns this season. When Michigan gets the ball near the end zone, Corum tends to find a way to score a touchdown.
Backup RB Donovan Edwards has 354 yards and three touchdowns, albeit on only 3.3 yards per carry. QB JJ McCarthy is also a bit of a threat to move the ball with his legs; he has 181 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground this season.
Obviously, McCarthy’s main threat is through the air. Michigan ranks 68th nationally in passing offense, at 224.8 yards per game, and with a very healthy 21-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. McCarthy has been extremely accurate — and efficient — through the air this season. His 74.3% completion rate ranks second nationally, behind only Oregon’s Bo Nix (77.2%). His 9.7 yards per attempt average also ranks 5th nationally.
Senior WR Roman Wilson has been McCarthy’s top threat in the passing game — he leads the team in receptions (40), receiving yards (648), and touchdowns (11). Iowa not having Cooper DeJean available to help defend Wilson is a big blow for Iowa defensively.
Senior WR Cornelius Johnson has also been a prolific target for the Wolverines, with 33 catches for 503 yards and a touchdown. Tight ends Colston Loveland and AJ Barner round the set of Michigan’s top pass-catchers. Loveland ranks second on the team in receptions (37), yards (550), and touchdowns (4).
The strong Michigan offensive line has not only been effective opening holes for Corum in the running game, it’s also been successful at keeping McCarthy’s pocket clean. Michigan allowed just 14.0 sacks, tied with Rutgers for the fewest-allowed in the Big Ten.
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WHEN IOWA HAS THE BALL
On the other side of the ball, Michigan’s defense has been a steel trap this season. The Wolverines lead the nation in scoring defense (6.7 ppg), with only five of seven opponents hitting double digits this season and only two (Maryland and Ohio State) exceeding 20 ppg. The nation’s best scoring defense facing one of the nation’s worst scoring offenses looks like a bad time for that terrible scoring offense.
Michigan is also 2nd nationally in total defense (246.8 ypg) and 4th in yards per play allowed (4.4). Michigan is 7th nationally in rushing defense (91.4 ypg) and 8th in yards per carry allowed (3.02 ypc). Michigan also ranks 4th in pass defense (166.3 ypg), 6th in passer rating (102.2), and 7th in opponent completion percentage (54.4%). The Wolverines have also allowed just seven touchdown passes against 16 interceptions this season.
Wolverine defenders have been average at creating havoc — they’re 67th in tackles for loss (68.0) and 40th in sacks (29.0). However, they’ve been among the nation’s best at generating turnovers — their +7 turnover margin is 3rd best nationally. The Wolverines have forced 21 turnovers (16 interceptions plus five forced fumbles) so far, tied for 18th best nationally.
Junior LB Junior Colson leads the team with 71 tackles on the season. Five Michigan defenders have at least 5.0 carries for weight, led by edges Jaylen Harrell and Josaiah Stewart and DL Mason Graham with 6.5 TFL apiece). Harrell and Stewart also lead the Wolverines in sacks, with 5.5 and 4.5 sacks, respectively.
Defensive back Mike Sainristil has been a particular threat through the air — he as a team-high 5 interceptions, including a pair of pick-six returns. Defensive back Will Johnson is second on the team with two picks and one defensive touchdown as well. Sainristil also leads the team in passes broken up with five, ahead of several guys with four pass deflections.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
Iowa has Tory Taylor, Michigan does not. Advantage: Iowa.
Michigan has junior punter Tommy Doman, whose 45.0 yards per punt average would rank 5th in the conference if he qualified for the Big Ten leaderboard. Doman doesn’t qualify because he hasn’t punted often enough; his 36 punts on the season is 43 fewer (!) than Taylor has attempted this season.
Senior placekicker James Turner is 12/14 on the season and his 86% conversion rate is second-best in the league. In a close game, there’s likely to be more confidence in Turner to make a kick than Iowa’s kicking game, despite Marshall Meeder‘s heroic game-winning kick last week.
Jake Thaw has returned 14 punt returns for 106 yards, a 7.57 yards per return average. Michigan hasn’t been very effective at kickoff returns; the Wolverines have returned 15 kickoffs for 224 yards, a 14.9 yards per return average, which ranks 13th in the Big Ten.
There is a path to Iowa winning this game, which we’ve already discussed in great detail. It involves a lot of things going right for Iowa and a lot of things going wrong for MIchigan. Is it possible? Sure. But is it probable? No.
Michigan has a talent advantage over Iowa at every position except punter. Jim Harbaugh has used that talent advantage and improved tactics to out-coach Kirk Ferentz in the last two Iowa-Michigan games. The Big Ten East’s best have figured out how to play (and overwhelm) Iowa in recent years and Ferentz hasn’t found an effective counter-punch yet.
It would be easier to envision a possible Iowa upset if so many of the Hawkeyes’ best players weren’t going to be in street clothes on the Iowa sideline — Cade McNamara, Luke Lachey, Erick All, Cooper DeJean. If Iowa had their best guys, it would be easier to see them having a puncher’s chance to hit the plays they need to hit to knock off Michigan.
Instead, Iowa will have to play the hand that it’s been dealt, with the players that it has available. From that perspective, it’s just too hard to see Deacon Hill being able to make enough plays against the Michigan defense. Likewise, it’s too hard to see the Iowa defense being able to hold back the patient and powerful Michigan offense for a full 60 minutes. At some point, slippage is inevitable.
Michigan 31, Iowa 10
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