Iowa vs Michigan: What We're Watching For

By RossWB on September 30, 2022 at 6:16 pm
go hawks go
© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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WHO: #4 Michigan (4-0)
WHEN: 11:00 AM CT (Saturday, October 1)
WHERE: Kinnick Stadium (Iowa City, IA) 
TV: FOX
ANNOUNCERS: Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, and Jenny Taft
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network (TuneIn, or local listings) | SiriusXM Ch. 99 or 205 (app 968)
STREAM: FoxSports.com
MOBILE: Fox Sports app 
TWITTER: @IowaFBLive | @IowaAwesome | @IowaOnBTN
WEATHER: partly cloudy, temps in the 60s
LINE: Michigan -10.5 (Total: 42.0)

NOTE: Don't forget to follow all the action during the game and chat with your fellow Iowa fans in the Go Iowa Awesome discord! (More info here.)

We know what the likely keys to victory are for this game because they probably have a lot in common with many of the things Iowa did well in their past slayings of Top 5 opponents.  They need to: 

* Win the turnover battle. 

Easier said than done against a Michigan team that's only turned the ball over twice this season -- a meaningless interception against Hawaii and a lost fumble against Maryland last week -- but Iowa's ball-hawking defense excels at forcing even the stingiest offenses to give the ball away. Time for the Doughboyz to go to work. And if the defense could go ahead and score themselves off of those turnovers? Well, that would be even better, thanks. 

* Bend on defense, but avoid breaking. 

Ideally, Iowa's defense will totally lock Michigan's offense down, limit them to minimal yardage, and force multiple three-and-outs. That may not be realistic, though, especially if the Iowa offense is unable to generate sustained drives themselves. But aside from limiting Michigan's offensive drives as much as possible, when Michigan does put together a drive that moves the ball down the field or gets them into the red zone, it will be key for Iowa to limit them as much as possible. Hold them to field goals, not touchdowns. Iowa is spectacularly ill-equipped to win a shootout, unless the 2002 Iowa offense shows up in black-and-gold uniforms tomorrow. (And, honestly, even that might not go so well now -- those dudes are getting old at this point.) 

* Unleash the chunk play on offense. 

Again, the ideal scenario on offense would be for Iowa to put together multiple clock-chewing, sustained drives that end in scores. Hey, stop laughing -- I said the ideal scenario, not the most realistic one. Given how mightily the Iowa offense has struggled to sustain drives against lesser opposition, it is a bit hard to believe that they'll able to consistently move the ball on a talented Michigan defense. And if that's the case, then they need to find ways to get a few big plays on offense to get a lot of yards (and hopefully points) in one fell swoop. Time to throw some deep routes. Break out a few trick plays. Be aggressive. 

Beyond all that? Well, scoring a touchdown would be a good change of pace. It's been 2+ games since Iowa has actually set foot in the Michigan end zone on a scoring play during a game. Last year's Big Ten Conference Championship game was an ugly 42-3 mauling and the last Iowa-Michigan meeting before that was a 10-3 Michigan victory in Ann Arbor in 2019. The last Iowa touchdown against Michigan was actually scored by Akrum Wadley in that epic comeback upset win in 2016. It would be great to end that touchdown drought (and probably essential to Iowa's hopes of getting a win in the game, unless they plan to kick a lot of field goals or record multiple safeties) tomorrow. 

PREDICTION 

I want to believe. Really, I do. I want to believe that the Iowa offense can put it together well enough to sustain a few drives and actually score some points. I do believe that the Iowa defense has some magic in them and will play their hearts out in this game -- I certainly don't expect Michigan to score 42 points on them again. But I worry about that defense wearing down when paired with an offense that may do very little all day. We know Michigan is going to stack the box, blitz the run game, and try to get pressure on Spencer Petras (whose passing proficiency plummets under pressure). The offense has looked slightly improved the last two weeks, but this will be a massive new challenge for them. If Iowa wins, I think the score is something like 17-16, with some clutch kicking and a defensive touchdown in the mix. But the more plausible outcome feels like minimal points for Iowa and a Michigan offense that steadily wears down a game Iowa defense. I very much hope I'm wrong. 

MICHIGAN 23, IOWA 10

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