The day after the Michigan football team beat Purdue, Michigan coach Brady Hoke had a message for his team; now it’s November, the month when championships are won. There was one problem — Sunday was October 30. But by the time the Wolverines take the field on Saturday against Iowa, they will be well acquainted with November. The road to the championship runs through Kinnick Stadium.

Michigan pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense

Junior quarterback Denard Robinson found a little bit of a rhythm last week against the Boilermakers, going 9-for-14, but he still needs to show he can throw the ball consistently. Robinson should have a chance for a big day against Iowa as long as his offensive line holds up. Redshirt junior guard Ricky Barnum and redshirt sophomore tackle Taylor Lewan are playing hurt, but that didn’t stop the line from having one of its best games of the season last week.

Either way, Robinson should have room to throw as the Hawkeyes don’t bring a lot of pressure and are just 94th in the country in sacks. With the added time, if Robinson can prevent throwing heart-breaking interceptions he will have a good chance of exploiting Iowa’s pass defense, which ranks second to last in the Big Ten.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan rush offense vs. Iowa rush defense

Tired of the is-Fitzgerald-Toussaint-officially-the-lead-back talk yet? A good game against the Hawkeyes would likely put the question to rest. The redshirt sophomore will have his chance, likely approaching 20 carries for the second straight week if all goes to plan. But this one will be different — on the road, with the aforementioned banged up offensive line, in a game that Hoke called the most physical they will play up to at this point in the season.

Iowa is looking for redemption after giving up 178 rushing yards to a bad Minnesota team. The Hawkeyes’ pair of sophomore linebackers James Morris and Christian Kirksey are tied for the team lead in tackles with 76, nearly 30 more than any other teammate. With a middle-of-the-pack run defense, the winner on the ground will depend on who wins the battle between Toussaint and the duo.

Until we remember that Robinson can still run.

Edge: Michigan

Iowa rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense

Marcus Coker, Iowa’s running back, is a large man at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, and he uses every ounce of it when he busts through the line. Coker is from Beltsville, Md. and Michigan’s going to be more worried about buckling its chin strap than its belt when facing him.

It will be Michigan’s biggest test since facing Michigan State’s Edwin Baker. It might be its biggest of the year. While the linebackers showed some promise against Purdue, this is a completely different situation. Playing two freshman linebackers (Desmond Morgan and redshirt freshman Jake Ryan) against Coker, Michigan needs a good push from their defensive line in order to prevent the running back from gaining momentum.

Coker is going to break some runs to the second level and third level. The question will be whether the Wolverines’ linebackers and secondary can tackle.

Though Iowa’s rush offense is 10th in the conference, and Michigan’s rush defense is fifth, Coker is coming off three straight 100-yard, two-touchdown games. He had 252 yards last week against Minnesota. Like a 230-pound running back needed any more momentum.

Edge: Iowa

Iowa pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense

The good news for the Wolverines is that they have a secondary this season. Michigan is 25th in the country in pass defense. The bad news is that it has a secondary this season. Just a single one. With the departure of Carvin Johnson and an injury to sophomore safety Marvin Robinson, the Wolverines’ depth in the defensive backfield is slim. Hoke said he “hoped” redshirt junior Jordan Kovacs would play Saturday, giving him one extra body.

And Michigan is going to need all the help they can get in covering Hawkeye wide receiver Marvin McNutt. There isn’t much depth in the Iowa receiver corps, but the lanky 6-foot-4 wide receiver makes up for it. He has nearly double the amount of receiving yardage as the second-leading receiver on the team, Keenan Davis, and has more touchdowns than the rest of the team combined.

McNutt’s quarterback, James Vandenberg has the traces of the typical Iowa quarterback. He isn’t flashy or extremely mobile. Vandenberg just makes good decisions, as evidenced by his 17-to-4 touchdown to interception ratio. He’s not spectacular, but he’s good enough.

Edge: Iowa

Special Teams

Hoke is angry that people have “beaten up” on redshirt sophomore Brendan Gibbons for his poor kicking performance last season. While you wouldn’t like Hoke when he’s angry, he has a point. This season isn’t last season. Gibbons is 6-for-8 on this year, with a long of 38 yards.

For the most part, the matchup comes down to Gibbons and Iowa’s Mike Meyer, who is 12-for-16. Meyer’s long of 50 yards gives him the advantage over Gibbons. But kicking’s a mind game, and Meyer may be a bit rattled. He missed a 24-yarder and a 43-yarder last week.

Sophomore punter Will Hagerup has struggled a bit since returning from suspension. He trails Iowa’s Eric Guthrie in yards per punt 34.8 to 42. Neither team’s return unit has registered a touchdown on the season.

Edge: Iowa

Intangibles

Michigan is playing to keep their hopes of a Big Ten Championship alive. Iowa is playing to get back in the race. It’s also looking for redemption after losing to Minnesota, the same team the Wolverines beat 58-0.

And though it isn’t a night game, the Hawkeyes are still in front of their drunk fans at Kinnick Stadium, where they haven’t lost in nearly a year.

Edge: Iowa

Final Score: Iowa 31, Michigan 28

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