WHO: #19 Michigan Wolverines (3-1, 1-1 B1G)
WHEN: Saturday, October 5, 2019
WHERE: Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, MI)
KICKOFF: 11:00 AM Central
ONLINE: Watch Fox Sports
RADIO: Hawkeye Sports Network (check local listings); TuneIn
ODDS: Michigan -3.5
WEATHER: high around 60, partly cloudy
Michigan has a commanding edge in this series all-time (42-15-4), but the 21st century has been more favorable for the Hawkeyes. Since 2000, Iowa is 7-5 against Michigan. They've been even better recently, winning five of the last six games since 2009. That said, the Delanybot 9000 has been friendly to the Iowa during that stretch, as four of those six games have been in Iowa City (all Iowa wins). Iowa won in Ann Arbor in 2010; the last time they were in Ann Arbor (2012), it... did not go well. Iowa's last meeting with Michigan remains seared into our memory, thanks to the efforts of one Mr. Keith Duncan:
MICHIGAN SEASON RECAP
Michigan opened the year with a 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee State, though the game wasn't all that close -- two of MTSU's touchdowns came after Michigan turnovers deep in their own territory and the third touchdown came on a big play near the end of the game. Michigan followed up that win with a narrow escape against Army in 2OT. Despite having a bye week before their next game, Michigan got absolutely wrecked by Wisconsin to the tune of 35-14 in a game that wasn't as close as the score might suggest, given that Wisconsin was up 35-0 with 20 minutes to go in the game. The Wolverines rebounded last week with an easy win over Rutgers, the Big Ten's favored pick-me-up opponent. Given that Michigan still has games remaining against Michigan State, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, they're staring down the possibility of a very disappointing year if they're unable to beat Iowa.
Michigan is 54th nationally in scoring offense at 32.5 ppg, but that figure is goosed by the 92 points that they scored against MTSU and Rutgers. Michigan scored 14 points against Army in regulation and 14 against Wisconsin -- in garbage time. This offense has not showed the ability to score many points against good teams in meaningful action. The Wolverines are 48th nationally in passing offense with 261.5 yards per game, though just 75th in QB rating (136.07) and 105th when it comes to completion percentage (57.1%). Shea Patterson has been Michigan's primary QB this season, going 67/113 (59.3%) for 905 yards (8.0 ypa), six touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Four Michigan receivers have at least 10 receptions this year, led by Ronnie Bell (6-0, 184) with 17 receptions for 263 yards, both team highs. Tarik Black (6-3, 215) has 12 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown, while Nico Collins (6-4, 222) has 10 receptions for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Black and Collins certainly have the size and athleticism that Michigan receivers were renowned for under Schembechler and Carr. Tight end Nick Eubanks (6-5, 256) has 10 catches for 97 yards, while tight end Sean McKeon (6-5, 246) has six catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Also of note: receiver Donovan People-Jones (6-2, 208) had 47 catches for 612 yards and eight touchdowns last year, but has just five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in two games so far this year after missing the first few weeks of the season with injury.
Michigan's running game has been D.O.A. so far in 2019; they're averaging 130.5 yards per game (94th nationally) and just 3.48 yards per carry (106th nationally). Army held Michigan to 2.4 yards per carry (108 yards on 45 carries), while Wisconsin kept them to 2.1 yards per carry (40 yards on 19 carries). Even against Rutgers Michigan was only able to put up 141 yards on 41 carries (3.4 yards per carry). Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet (6-1, 220) has been their most effective back, with 218 yards on 48 carries (4.5 ypc) and 3 touchdowns. Sophomore back Christian Turner (5-11, 200) is their only other rusher with over 100 yards, with 31 carries for 134 yards (4.3 ypc).
Also of note: Michigan's offense has been exceptionally fumble-prone so far this season, coughing the ball up 12 times and losing 7 of those giveaways. A few fumble recoveries could certainly help Iowa's cause on Saturday.
Michigan is 32nd nationally in scoring defense, at 19.3 ppg. They have been pretty good in the red zone, though, allowing teams to score on just 8 of 11 trips there (72.7%, 18th best nationally). All eight of those red zone scores conceded have been touchdowns. The best part of Michigan's defense has been the pass defense, which is holding opponents to just 127.8 yards per game (3rd best nationally). That said, opponents have also completed a sizzling 67.4% of their passes against Michigan, which is 119th in the nation. Most of those passes have been short, though, as evidenced by the 5.9 yards per attempt (19th nationally) Michigan opponents are averaging.
Run defense has been more problematic in some ways, as the Wolverines are allowing 168 yards per game, 89th nationally. But they're allowing just 3.8 yards per carry (55th nationally), so a lot of the damage that's been done to them on the ground has been the result of volume. Well, that and playing Army and Wisconsin, who happen to rank 4th and 20th in rushing yards per game this season. Neither Rutgers nor Middle Tennessee State had any success running the ball against Michigan.
LB Khaleke Hudson leads the team with 41 tackles, with DL Kwity Paye leading the team with 5.0 tackles for loss and two sacks. Michigan hasn't been a prolific sacking team this year, though, with just 7 sacks in four games (that is ahead of Iowa's five sacks in four games, though). DBs Lavert Hill and Josh Melellus lead the team with two pass deflections apiece; Hill also has one of Michigan's two interceptions on the season. Turnovers have not been a strong point for Michigan's defense this year, as they've forced just six in four games.
MATCH-UP TO WATCH
I think the key question mark for this game is Iowa's offense -- can they move the ball consistently on Michigan and turn drives into points? Iowa's offense did just enough to win in their only game against a team with a pulse this year (Iowa State). The good news is that teams with competent offenses have been able to move the ball against Michigan this year (see: Army, Wisconsin), so if Iowa's offense is as good as we think (hope?) it is, they should have some success. If Iowa can establish a good running game against Michigan, then we'll feel really good about their chances of winning this game.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
Just win. We don't need to see any style points here. A win over a Top 20 team in Ann Arbor will be all the style we need.
Before the season began, this looked like an incredibly daunting game for Iowa. Five weeks into the season, though, and the situation looks a bit different. Michigan is nowhere close to the team that was the consensus preseason favorite to win the Big Ten East -- and challenge for a possible College Football Playoff spot. Meanwhile, Iowa has looked solid so far and looked steadily better, particularly on offense (give or take the Iowa State game). All of which is to say... I think Iowa wins a close game, thanks to Nate Stanley leading some clutch second half scoring drives.
IOWA 27, MICHIGAN 23