Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium is notorious for being a destination of disarray for visiting teams.

For one, the away locker room is painted pink, intended to be demeaning and belittling to the Hawkeyes’ opponents.

Then there are the fans, whose seats are so close to the field that the players can hear them shouting not just their names, but also the names of their parents and siblings, according to fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan.

To top it off, the forecast in Iowa City calls for a cool 25 degrees on Saturday.

So it’s not surprising the Wolverines (3-3 Big Ten, 7-3 overall) keep throwing around the word “tough,” when describing the challenge they face this weekend, their penultimate game of the regular season.

But Michigan plans to counter Iowa’s toughness with its own, in a contest Lewan dubbed as a battle of wills. And with redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner leading the way, Michigan sees that as a very achievable goal.

On Monday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke called Gardner a “fighter.” Lewan said he was surprised by the tenacity the quarterback showed last weekend against Northwestern, especially the way he rallied in the third overtime to score the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion.

“I knew Devin was tough,” Lewan said. “I didn’t know he was that tough. Obviously we don’t want him to get sacked the rest of the season, but if he does, I know he’s going to get up every time. That speaks volumes about him as a leader, as a quarterback, as a person.”

Against the Wildcats, Michigan had to call a timeout when Gardner temporarily lost feeling in his left arm. Despite that, Gardner says he’s feeling the healthiest he has in weeks.

“I always thought of myself as a pretty tough guy,” Gardner said. “The competitive juice that I have, that helps me fight through some pain if I’m a little beat up.”

Gardner’s hits may not be behind him, though. In fact, he might well be staring them dead in the face again come Saturday. Hoke said that Iowa is much improved from last season, especially on defense. Its linebackers mostly consist of seniors now, giving the Hawkeyes confidence to blitz more frequently.

As for the rest the rest of their offense, the Wolverines expect to have a more established, balanced ground game this weekend. Fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint didn’t play in last week’s game, due to missing practices from a concussion.

In his place, freshmen Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith handled most of the carries. But with Toussaint slated to return, Hoke said Wednesday that he has divided the snaps in practice into thirds.

Saturday is by no means a marquee matchup, with both teams in the bottom half of the Legends Division. But in a year where little else except a 10-win season can be gained, Gardner is anxious to prove that last week’s overtime win wasn’t a fluke.

“I always knew I was the ultimate competitor,” Gardner said. “That’s what really drives me. Becoming so close to my teammates, that really helps. You’re not only fighting for yourself, but you’re fighting for your teammates, your brothers.”

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