Michigan Preview: Demonstrating Dominance

It's Friday, which means it's time to preview tomorrow's game. We used to call this "There's A Game On Saturday?", but as it turns out, nobody googles that. So the boring title is your fault.

News, Notes, and News

There's three things I know right now, in ascending order of certainty: it's late, I smell like intercourse, and the Hawkeyes are going to win on Saturday. Lateness is a fairly subjective concept, I'm pretty sure every single reader can smell the interpersonal relationship I've just engaged in, and 3.5-point line be damned: Iowa has got this.

Iowa's two-deep is here. The only missing man is Jeff Tarpinian (more on him in a minute), and while losing a senior starter and seeing a true freshman enter the two-deep is never a good thing, it's worth mentioning that the last time Troy Johnson played a full game in Tarp's stead, he earned Big Ten DPOTW.

On Michigan's side, the only "new" injuries of note are wideout Martavious Odoms and tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint. Neither player is a game-changer, but at least Odoms has a history of productivity, while Toussaint's absence effectively changes nothing about Michigan's offense.

The game is at 2:30 CT on ABC or ESPN, and it's the second-best game of that timeslot. Auburn-Arkansas is your top contender, but honestly, do you really think Nebraska-Texas is going to be more worth watching than Iowa-Michigan? I don't.

Keys to the Game

As has been mentioned before, Iowa's defense has to succeed where multiple mediocre defenses have failed in containing Denard Robinson. This would be a more nebulous concept had Michigan State not bottled up the electric sophomore just the week prior in the Spartans' 34-17 victory, so any cries that "it just can't be done" carry significantly less weight than they would have eight days ago.

That said, Iowa's offense also has a habit of making itself look good against plainly inferior competition, and as Illinois proved just last week, that includes hapless Penn State. Fortunately, there's no evidence to suggest that Michigan's defense is demonstrably better than the units Iowa has faced so far, and in case that fact deserves any scrutiny, may we remind people that Iowa Touchdowns For Kids has already earned over $10,000 for children on the season? 23 touchdowns in five games. That pace will slow, but Michigan's defense isn't exactly known for slowing the pace of opposing offenses.

In fact, I think the key of this ballgame is how Iowa's wide receivers--one of the best corps in the conference--play against Michigan's very green secondary. There isn't a single Wolverine that we trust in coverage over who they'lll face on Iowa, so this game will be an effective bellwether on whether Ricky Stanzi's good enough to abuse lousy coverage or if he's just another rocket-armed average college QB (personally, I think it's the former, but the onus is on Stanzi here).

I think Iowa's passing game succeeds in a big way this week. Stanzi victimized Michigan's back seven during the last 55 minutes of play last year, and he's made a bigger stride in experience than Michigan's secondary has in the 12 intervening months. It would be surprising if Stanzi struggled significantly against this Wolverine defense. 

Moreover, as Morehouse reported on Friday, Jeff Tarpinian is making the trip to Ann Arbor. That, of course, doesn't necessarily mean The Shark will start instead of sitting on the sidelines and biting a towel, but if he can go, then there really aren't any injury issues unless we want to rehash the fact that Jewel Hampton's ACLs are merely theoretical. Past that, Iowa's essentially at full strength. There are no prefab excuses, then, if Michigan somehow blows Iowa off the ball.

Predictions

I picked 38-27, and it would be stupid not to stick with this idea. I don't see much on the Michigan defense that'll keep Iowa from moving the ball between the 20s, and I see just as little to keep Iowa from turning Red Zone possessions into touchdowns.

Iowa has a talent advantage on the edges with Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on the edges, but it seems like the Hawkeyes hold just as much of a tactical advantage with Ken O'Keefe's ability to scheme the Michigan linebackers straight out of the play on multiple occasions. Expect Ricky Stanzi to top 300 yards before Adam Robinson breaks the 100-yard barrier, but if the opposite happens, so much the better, because that just means Iowa can run the ball with ease on Michigan's defense too.

Meanwhile, everyone's itching to see Denard Robinson vs. Iowa's defense, and if it hadn't been for last week's game betwen Michigan and MSU, that matchup would be even sexier today. But Michigan State demonstrated how to slow down Michigan's offense more than Michigan's defense can slow down Typical Big Ten Offense, and the Spartans were talented enough to put the game out of reach before the third quarter was over. I like MSU's offense more than Iowa's (sorry, but it's the ground game talking), so I don't think Iowa coasts for more than 10 minutes of the game, but I really don't see Michigan winning this one.

Now I gotta get some more clothes on and go to bed.

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