Already beaten and battered, the Iowa football team now has to face the toughest part of its schedule if the top-25 rankings mean anything.
Saturday’s game against No. 21 Michigan at the Big House will be Iowa’s first against a ranked opponent this season.
And the question that begs to be asked is if Iowa (4-6) can’t handle the easy part of its schedule, which included a 32-31 loss at home to Central Michigan on Sept. 22 at Kinnick Stadium, then how can it possibly stack up against Michigan and fellow top-25 opponent Nebraska next Friday?
Forget about the fact that Michigan’s annual showdown with Ohio State is scheduled for next Saturday in Columbus, Ohio and that Iowa is irrelevant after losing four games in a row.
It’s still highly unlikely that the Michigan players will overlook Saturday’s game because all week long – heck, since the spring and summer – they’ve been reminded about their historical swoon against Iowa.
Michigan’s current three-game losing streak against Iowa is the first of its kind. The Michigan seniors, which includes electrifying quarterback Denard Robinson, have the dubious distinction of being the only players in the history of the Michigan program to lose three games in a row against Iowa.
Combine that with it being Michigan’s Senior Day and with Iowa playing worse than any team in the Big Ten not named Illinois and it becomes a recipe for a beat-down. Michigan is favored by at least 16 points, which suggests that a mismatch is about to occur.
Iowa will close out the regular season against Nebraska next Friday at Kinnick Stadium. The Cornhuskers likely will be playing for a Legends Division title, whereas Iowa could be playing solely for pride if it loses to Michigan.
Iowa has to win its last two games just to meet the six-victory minimum bowl requirement. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked this week if he was fearful the losing streak could reach six games.
“We could win two, we could split them or we could lose two,” Ferentz said. “Those are the only three possibilities right now.
“There’s no fear of it, but that’s the reality of it.”
Iowa is playing so poorly right now that it probably wouldn’t matter if Robinson misses his third game in a row because of an elbow injury. His backup, 6-foot-4 junior Devin Gardner, has more upside than Robinson does as a quarterback, mostly because Gardner is a better passer and about four inches taller.
But considering the way in which this season has unraveled for Iowa, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Robinson healed up just in time to throw more salt on Iowa’s festering wounds.
“You could see both of them in the game, too,” Ferentz said of Robinson and Gardner. “It wouldn’t shock me if that happened.”
It would be a shock, though, if Iowa defeated Michigan for a fourth time in a row. Michigan is no better than it was last season, but Iowa has slipped to a level not seen since before Ferentz rebuilt the program the first time more than a decade ago.
Iowa’s winning streak against Michigan has been fun for the players and fans, but all signs point to the fun ending Saturday.
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football