There are two ways of looking at a bye week.
On the one hand, a week off can be beneficial, because it allows injured players to heal while also giving a team an extra week to prepare for its next opponent.
But, a bye week can be bad, because it can throw a team off of its routine.
With that in mind, nobody knows yet how No. 8 Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 5-1 overall) will respond coming off its bye week with a game at Iowa looming on Saturday.
“How we”re going to play after an off-week, no one knows,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “Our team knows this is a big game for us.”
Said defensive end Dan Rumishek: “It”s all about remaining focused going in there and watching film, being prepared, being ready. Iowa”s a tough team.
“An off-week is a great thing for a football team in terms of being healthy again and refocusing on your goals. I think of it as a momentum builder. I really was able to look back and see how I”ve been doing so far this season and reevaluating my goals and getting after them again. That fire”s back in me again.”
Michigan has lost its game following an off week for two straight years, losing at Northwestern last year 54-51, and falling to Illinois 35-29 the prior year.
But that”s not what concerns Carr. He”s more worried about playing at Iowa (2-2, 4-2) for the first time in three years.
Former Michigan coach Gary Moeller once referred to Iowa”s Kinnick Stadium as the Big Ten”s most difficult stadium for a visiting team.
“The crowd in Iowa is tremendous, and it”s a little different environment,” Carr said. “It”s a throwback. You go to Kinnick Stadium, you sense how much those people truly care and love the Hawkeyes. It”s nice to see how much they care about their players and programs.”
Michigan”s current seniors won in Iowa City as freshmen, as the Wolverines triumphed 12-9 in a sloppy game played in the rain.
Similar conditions are a possibility Saturday. To prepare for that, Michigan made it a point to practice outside last Wednesday and Thursday, when it was raining.
“You don”t go out there if it”s pouring rain,” sophomore quarterback John Navarre said. “But Wednesday and Thursday, when it”s lightly raining, cold and muddy, you have to see how your team handles those situations.
“You have to do it with respect to what you can do with your offense, and Coach Carr does a good job.”
Carr has Michigan in the driver”s seat for another Big Ten title, as the Wolverines have a one-game lead over Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State, three teams that share second place. Because of Michigan”s 45-20 win over No. 22 Illinois and 24-10 win over No. 24 Purdue, the Wolverines own the Big Ten tiebreaker over at least those two teams.
Michigan has won at least a share of three of the last four titles.
“At this point in the road, you need teams to help you,” Navarre said. “Especially when you don”t play Northwestern, you need a team like Penn State to help you. You need all the help you can get, even though we control our own destiny if we win out.”
Winless Penn State upset Northwestern last Saturday, giving the Wildcats their second Big Ten loss.
“It feels good in the fact that we can win out and win the Big Ten championship,” Navarre continued. “If both teams are undefeated and you don”t play each other, it”s a different feeling then waiting for someone to lose.
“It”s a great feeling to know if we win out, then we have the championship.”