An Iowa football team that has already lost four games in a row – and this doesn’t even include what continues to be a head-scratching defeat at home against Central Michigan – faces its toughest assignment of the season.
For the first time this season, the Hawkeyes play a ranked opponent when kicking off against No. 23 Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor.
More bad news for a team that doesn’t need piled on in that department comes Nov. 23, when 16th-ranked Nebraska makes its first Kinnick Stadium appearance since ruining coach Kirk Ferentz’s debut as Iowa’s coach with a 42-7 victory on Sept. 4, 1999 at Kinnick Stadium.
First things first.
Who has the edge on Saturday?
WHEN IOWA PASSES
Forget it. If Iowa can’t pass muster against mediocre Big Ten teams with average passing defenses, how can it expect to have an advantage against the nation’s best? Furthermore, the Hawkeyes face major college football’s No. 2 pass defense on Black Friday. Wolverine opponents have averaged 149.2 passing yards a game, while Iowa’s passing average of 197.6 yards a game is 94th nationally. Captain Obvious here, but: ADVANTAGE MICHIGAN.
WHEN MICHIGAN PASSES
Don’t even bother looking at statistics that say the Wolverines average 189.2 passing yards a game, which is 98th nationally. It’s a fact, but a product of Denard Robinson’s run-first mindset. A nerve problem in his throwing elbow might even prevent him from playing Saturday, but his replacement has been good enough to start for many teams. That’s Devin Gardner, who is 28-for-47 for 520 yards and four touchdowns the past two games. ADVANTAGE: MICHIGAN.
WHEN IOWA RUSHES
Again, forget it. A team that rushed for 23 yards against Penn State, 96 against Indiana, and 74 against Purdue isn’t putting fear in anyone – even if Mark Weisman plays, which is doubtful. There have been too many injuries and reshuffling along the offensive line to expect much on Saturday, although they’re gaining valuable experience for the future. ADVANTAGE: MICHIGAN.
WHEN MICHIGAN RUSHES
Even if Robinson doesn’t play on Senior Day, the Wolverines won’t be stuck in cement. Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 1,041 yards last season, and there’s also Gardner, who has three rushing touchdowns. ADVANTAGE: MICHIGAN.
Michigan has a good place-kicker, too, in Brendan Gibbons, who has missed just twice in 16 field-goal attempts. His longest success is from 52 yards. . . .Michigan needs a victory if it wants to play Wisconsin in the Big Ten Conference title game, because Nebraska holds the Legends Division tie-breaker. The Huskers beat the Wolverines 23-9 on Oct. 27. ADVANTAGE: MICHIGAN
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football