IOWA CITY, Iowa — The results are in. And in Michigan’s 14-13 loss Saturday night at Iowa, nothing was spectacular, or even formidable.
Michigan entered the weekend No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings. By midnight, Michigan was no longer undefeated, having unraveled in its first appearance at Kinnick Stadium since 2013.
The Wolverines posted a season-low 98 yards rushing. Its special teams play was shoddy, especially against a team that’s struggled to find its identity after a 12-2 season in 2015.
Michigan (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten Conference) hosts Indiana (5-5, 3-4) at 3:30 p.m ET Saturday at Michigan Stadium in its final home game of the regular season.
Here are the grades for Michigan in its loss at Iowa:
Offense (2.5 stars)
Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight had his lowest output of the season, finishing with 103 yards on 11-of-26 passing with one interception. Michigan’s early unsteady hands didn’t help Speight, either. Michigan had a pair of catches, including a would-be touchdown by Amara Darboh nine minutes into the game, wiped out by officials because of bobbles.
Of its four running backs who have found ways to be productive against various offenses, none rose above the rest. Chris Evans led with 52 yards on eight carries. Ty Isaac’s lone carry was Michigan’s only touchdown, a 7-yard score six minutes into the second quarter for a 10-0 advantage — and that lead disappeared.
Defense (3 stars)
Michigan simply had to work on defense. It couldn’t fully contain Iowa running back Akrum Wadley, who led all rushers with 115 yards on 23 carries. The tackling has gotten weaker as the season has worn on. Iowa couldn’t create much through the air against Michigan. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was 8-for-19 passing for 66 yards and was intercepted by Channing Stribling with less than two minutes left in the game. That play that could have set up Michigan’s run-out-the-clock drive. Instead, Iowa forced a three-and-out and drove for the winning field goal.
Special teams (1 star)
The final three seconds summed up Michigan’s special teams play. The Wolverines twice had only 10 men on the field when Iowa kicker Keith Duncan lined up for the game-winning, 33-yard field goal.
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) November 13, 2016
That is not how a championship team handles pressure.
It wasn’t just the field-goal unit that was a problem. Special teams overall were an issue for Michigan. Officials ejected linebacker Devin Bush for targeting after a hit on Iowa punter Ron Coluzzi, who fell to the ground after tripping on the turf in the first quarter. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game he did not agree with the call. On Iowa’s next drive, Michigan ran into the punter twice, which allowed the Hawkeyes to extend the drive. Also, Michigan fullback Khalid Hill coughed up the ball on a kickoff return at the start of the second half. That set up a 25-yard field goal, which gave the Hawkeyes an 11-10 lead five minutes into the third quarter.
Coaching (2 stars)
Something as fundamental as putting the right number of players on the field for a game-deciding play should not be a problem. Michigan squandered a 10-0 lead and couldn’t find and dissect Iowa’s weaknesses — and there have been plenty this season for the Hawkeyes, one of the Big Ten’s more erratic teams. That was something that made Michigan so successful in its first nine games, but not at Iowa. Michigan couldn’t capitalize on much against a stubborn Iowa team.
Overall (2 stars)
Michigan needs to win its final two games — Saturday against Indiana and Nov. 26 at Ohio State – to maintain its hopes of making the College Football Playoff. To do that, Michigan has a lot to work on, as its loss to Iowa evidenced. Michigan faces the Hoosiers on Saturday in a what could become a defense-optional, whoever-scores-last-wins type of game. The Hoosiers have scored at least 31 points in their last three games. Michigan has to shore up its special teams, have a rebound performance from Wilton Speight (who appeared to sustain an unspecified shoulder injury at Iowa) and rediscover its running game.