The outlook for this season of Michigan football is still cloudy after five games.
But luckily for the Wolverines and their fans, they won’t have to wait long for the picture to clear up.
There are moments that define every team’s season. Michigan’s upcoming two-game road trip through America’s Heartland is shaping up to be that time for these Wolverines, who still have so much to prove after a sloppy win Saturday against the Hoosiers.
“We have the motivation of going on the road and getting a win on the road,” Michigan captain Grant Bowman said. “We are also playing against a tremendous team (Iowa) that beat us last year. We are playing for a Big Ten championship. I don’t think there is any chance of us not being prepared for a game of this caliber.”
It’s up for debate how prepared Michigan was last season at home with the Big Ten title on the line. The Hawkeyes rolled into Ann Arbor last season on a mission, ending the Wolverines’ hopes of a Rose Bowl bid with a 34-9 victory. Michigan players admitted after the game they were “outtoughed” by Iowa, which outgained Michigan by more than 200 yards and controlled the clock for almost 40 minutes.
“They took it to us last year,” Michigan captain Carl Diggs said. “They wore us down and took advantage of us. It was kind of hard to deal with.”
“It’s a challenge for us,” fifth-year senior center Dave Pearson said. “We got called out a little bit by them here last year and any time you lose to a team you want to go into the next game and put a solid performance up and take the game to them. I think the whole team wants to go in there and prove to everybody that we are a tough team.”
History shows that Michigan coach Lloyd Carr knows how to prepare his team for revenge games. Carr is 12-3 against teams that beat the Wolverines the previous season.
“There were a lot of lessons out there on that Saturday afternoon, I can promise you,” Carr said. “As you go through spring practice and into fall practice, you’re trying to take those lessons, good and bad, and make them a part of your fiber so you don’t repeat those mistakes and those things that caused you to lose.
“If you’re a guy that played in that game a year ago, there are things that you remember, absolutely.”
Even if the Wolverines are able to shake the demons from last season’s loss and knock off the 23rd-ranked Hawkeyes Saturday, they’ll have a short week to prepare for No. 21 Minnesota on Friday, Oct. 10 at the Metrodome.
Carr’s road record fell to 26-15 (.630 winning percentage) after Michigan’s loss at Oregon Sept. 20. Michigan quarterback John Navarre is just 6-6 on the road as a starter and is 0-5 against ranked opponents on the road.
In other words, how the Wolverines play on the road for the rest of the season could be the deciding factor in where they spend New Year’s.
“It was definitely a good warm-up to play in Oregon and deal with that,” Pearson said. “We have to prove we can win on the road; that is something we haven’t done yet this year.”
Carr unsure about Crable: If only Shawn Crable’s bruised shoulder would have listened to his early-season optimism.
After each of the Wolverines’ first two games, Crable predicted he would be ready to play his first game for Michigan the next week. But five weeks into the season, the true freshman linebacker has spent each game sporting his No. 2 jersey and windpants on the sideline.
Carr is still debating whether or not he’ll redshirt Crable.
“My hope is that Shawn will be able to return, but that will be up to our doctors,” Carr said. “Right now, I’m not ready to make that decision. He’s in good shape, doing a lot of running, but I’m not ready to do that yet.”
Rivas wins?: Carr implied that freshman Garrett Rivas will handle field goals and extra points for the immediate future.
Rivas hit a 44-yard field goal against the Hoosiers and was 4-for-4 on extra points.
“What we’re trying to do with Adam (Finley) – it’s really what I was hoping would happen right from the beginning – is I want to allow Adam to concentrate strictly on punting the football,” Carr said. “Garrett has enabled him to do that.”