When the Wolverines head into Iowa City tomorrow, it will be a traditional Big Ten brawl – a pound-for-pound battle to see which team can simply “outtough” its opponent.
Michigan has run the gauntlet of emotions this season, the most recent being a lethargic 31-17 win over an Indiana team which had no business staying in the game.
The Hawkeyes suffered their first defeat of the season at Michigan State last week and should be excited to get back in the Big Ten race with Michigan coming to town.
Last year, Iowa dropped the hammer on Michigan’s season, as it handed the Wolverines their worst home defeat since 1967 (34-9). But in 2001, a miraculous one-handed catch by receiver Marquise Walker helped the Wolverines emerge victorious from Kinnick Stadium.
Michigan pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense: Although Iowa’s defense is heavy up front and built to stop the run, the secondary is smart and stingy, with several upperclassmen among its ranks. Junior free safety Sean Considine and corner Jovon Johnson should both be a factor, as well as strong safety Bob Sanders.
“Bob Sanders is, I think, the best strong safety in all of college football,” Lloyd Carr said.
Iowa has allowed just over 200 passing yards per game thus far, while the Wolverines are averaging 240 yards per game in the air.
After a strong performance against Oregon, Michigan’s aerial attack seemed to disappear once again against the Hoosiers.
If Michigan’s receivers can hang on to the football and Navarre can forget his troubles on the road and make accurate throws, the Wolverines should have the advantage here. But until then, this is even.
Michigan run offense vs. Iowa run defense: Michigan hasn’t had much offense on the ground since beating up on Notre Dame. Chris Perry was completely shut down in Oregon and didn’t make much noise against Indiana after fumbling twice early on.
Michigan’s offensive line has had trouble opening holes, which isn’t going to get any easier in Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes’ defensive front is very experienced and has given up just 84 rushing yards per game. It is a defense centered on stopping the run and not giving up the big play. Running the ball is where the game will be won or lost for Michigan.
“The game is going to come down to the offensive line and running the ball,” senior lineman Tony Pape said. “It’s a great challenge for us.”
Michigan run defense vs. Iowa run offense: The Michigan run defense has been the one constant so far this season. After a shaky start against Central Michigan, the front seven has put together four strong games in a row, and should be ready to deal with Iowa running back Fred Russell.
Speaking of Russell, he has carried the load offensively for the Hawkeyes, who use a zone-blocking system that gives Russell the opportunity to see where the hole is and then squeeze through it. His small stature and quickness make him a difficult person to catch.
“He really fits well into their system, and he is a great back,” senior Grant Bowman said.
Russell is averaging 123 rushing yards per game, but the Michigan defense should be up to the challenge.
Michigan pass defense vs. Iowa pass offense: Iowa hasn’t had much to work with since its top two receivers, Maurice Brown and Ed Hinkel, went down with injuries. Brown will be sidelined until October, but Carr expects Hinkel to be back in the lineup tomorrow.
The Hawkeyes will focus on running the football with Russell, but they have the potential to do damage in the air.
Six-foot-7, 259-pound quarterback Nate Chandler will present another challenge for the Wolverines, as they are not used to seeing tall quarterbacks.
But Marlin Jackson is coming off the best game of his season, and with Larry Stevens and Ernest Shazor back in the lineup (both did not play last week due to injuries), the Wolverines should control the pass.
Intangibles: Both teams have something to prove, and both are still contenders for the Big Ten title. Kinnick Stadium will be loud, but Michigan’s seniors have been there before and won. Just like last year, this game will come down to toughness – who can out-muscle who?
Michigan 21, Iowa 17