IOWA CITY, Iowa — No. 3 Michigan will be the biggest test Iowa faces this season. The Wolverines (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) are a complete team, big, athletic, physical and capable of dominating in all phases.
Beating them would be a tall task, but it would also define the year for Iowa (5-4, 3-3). Can the Hawkeyes pull off the upset on Saturday (8;12 p.m. ET, ABC)? Let’s investigate.
When Iowa has the ball
Both Iowa and Michigan want to out-muscle the opponent and control the line of scrimmage. The Hawkeyes will look to establish the running game and running backs LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this one looked a lot like Iowa-Wisconsin, a war of attrition developing between two bruisers.
The Iowa passing game got a jolt from wide receiver Jerminic Smith and some screen passes. The question is can it be repeated against one of the top secondaries in the country?
Questions also center around the offensive line. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t sound optimistic that offensive tackle Cole Croston would play.
Michigan leads the Big Ten with sacks. Can Iowa protect quarterback C.J. Beathard long enough for him to throw the football?
You name it, Michigan is good at it on defense.
|Stat||Number||Big Ten Rank|
|Total Yards Allowed||246.3||1st|
|Rushing Yards Allowed||107.4||2nd|
|Passing Yards Allowed||138.9||1st|
|Opponent Third Down Percentage||19.0||1st|
The Wolverines bring plenty of star power into Kinnick Stadium. Linebacker Jabrill Peppers, cornerback Jourdan Lewis, defensive end Taco Charlton and linebacker Ben Gedeon are impact players. Peppers can line up anywhere on the field and wreak havoc in the run or passing game.
Iowa doesn’t plan to treat Peppers like he’s anything special, but it will take an extraordinary effort from the Hawkeyes to come out on top in this matchup.
When Michigan has the ball
Iowa is coming off one of its worst defensive performances under Ferentz. Can the Hawkeyes rebound? They’ll need to against an offense that’s third nationally in points, averaging 48.0 per game and also does this.
The good news for Iowa is Michigan won’t spread out the Hawkeyes like Penn State did while racking up 41 points. The bad news is the Wolverines will want to run the ball and the Nittany Lions laid out a blueprint on how to attack Iowa, especially on the edges, with their 359-yard rushing day.
Michigan is known for its ground game but can throw the football, too. Quarterback Wilton Speight is a Davey O’Brien semifinalist throwing for 2,053 yards, 15 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
Iowa cornerback Desmond King can neutralize one Michigan receiver and the times he goes against wide receiver Amara Darboh will be worth the price of admission. Finding a way to contain the other passing game playmakers, led by tight end Jake Butt and wide out Jehu Chesson, will fall on the rest of the secondary.
This is the rare game where King may not be the best returner in the game. King vs. Peppers is a heavyweight matchup. Both are top 30 nationally in punt return.
King can do this.
Odds are good for a big return, possibly a touchdown, on Saturday.
Iowa holds the edge in kickoff return yards (26.4 to 17.6) and net punting yards (37.7 to 36.0). Michigan holds the edge in kickoff coverage yards allowed (40.9 to 39.3). The winner of this matchup will likely be the team with the biggest return.
Ferentz must find a way to get his team back on track after a demoralizing loss at Penn State. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh just needs to keep his team rolling down the tracks. If the Wolverines win out they’ll find themselves in the playoff.
This is the first road test for Michigan against a foe with a Big Ten victory. Iowa will need more on its side than that to win. The Wolverines are possibly the most well-rounded team in college football. Iowa needs to play its best game of the season, especially on offense, if it’s to enter the fourth quarter with a shot at the upset. The Wolverines appear too strong on paper and it will likely be that way on the field come Saturday.
Bobby La Gesse prediction: Michigan 45, Iowa 10
Scott Dochterman prediction: Michigan 41, Iowa 0