For two teams considered to be in the upper echelon of the Big
Ten going into the season, neither Michigan nor Iowa have been
impressive in their first three games. The Wolverines lost to an
average Notre Dame team and came within a made field goal of going
to overtime at home against San Diego State last Saturday. The
Hawkeyes squeaked by Iowa State before getting manhandled at
Arizona State last week, 44-7. So a poor start to the conference
schedule could take either team to an unexpectedly mediocre
Michigan passing offense vs. Iowa passing defense:
Arizona State quarterback Andrew Walter terrorized the Iowa
secondary last week, completing 31-of-43 passes for 428 yards and
five touchdowns. Walter threw short and long, and had tons of time
to do it. The Michigan passing attack has looked sluggish while
bringing along true freshman quarterback Chad Henne. The Hawkeyes
won’t give up another 428 yards on Saturday, but the
Wolverines receiving corps will give them trouble.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Iowa rushing defense:
Iowa’s front seven, led by linebacker Abdul Hodge and
defensive end Matt Roth, has been spectacular thus far. The
Hawkeyes lead the conference in rushing defense, giving up just 43
yards per game. The Michigan ground game did receive hope last
week, when true freshman Mike Hart busted out for a 121-yard
performance. But this will be the toughest rushing defense the
Wolverines have seen this season.
Iowa passing offense vs. Michigan passing defense: The
Wolverines have used the interception as their biggest way of
gaining momentum this season. Michigan currently leads the nation
in interceptions with nine, and cornerback Markus Curry is tied for
second in the country with one per contest. And, as bad as Iowa was
defending the pass last weekend, it was even worse completing the
pass against Arizona State. Quarterback Drew Tate threw for just 44
yards, while completing 8-of-19 passes. For the season, the
Hawkeyes rank 92nd in the nation in passing offense.
Iowa rushing offense vs. Michigan rushing defense: While
not as spectacular as Iowa, Michigan’s rushing defense has
been solid, ranking third in the Big Ten. Iowa’s running game
has been decimated by injuries, as original starter Albert Young
tore his ACL against Iowa State and is out for the season. Jermelle
Lewis hasn’t done much to impress as Young’s
replacement, so look for junior Marques Simmons to get an extended
look. To make things worse, Iowa will also have to use its third
different offensive line combination in four weeks.
Special Teams: Right now, Ohio State could run laps
around both of these teams in terms of the kicking game.
Michigan’s Garrett Rivas and Iowa’s Kyle Schlicher have
each missed two extra points and haven’t looked sparkling
while kicking field goals. Rivas has hit the ball well at times,
but for the most part has been inconsistent. But the sophomore has
shown much better range than Schlicher, whose season long is 39
yards. In terms of the punting game, Michigan’s Adam Finley
and Iowa’s David Bradley have been solid but unspectacular.
Iowa ranks second in the nation in punt returns, but
Michigan’s kickoff coverage unit has arguably been the
Wolverines’ biggest bright spot so far.
Intangibles: Neither squad is suffering from a lack of
motivation. Michigan certainly doesn’t want to lose to the
same team at home for the second consecutive time, as much as Iowa
would love to see that happen. Both teams are also in need of a
strong start to the conference season after below-standard
nonconference performances. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is one of the
best up-and-coming coaches around, and won’t stand to have
his team unprepared for the second straight week. But Michigan
won’t allow itself to be embarrassed at home once again.
Pick: Look for both teams to play their best games of the
year because their seasons depend on it. Regardless, it’s
hard to beat any major program three years in a row.
Michigan’s young offensive nucleus should improve and come up
big in its first must-win situation at the collegiate level.
Michigan 24, Iowa 17