Four factors is a little different today. Instead of focusing heavily on four different factors to the game against Michigan tomorrow, I'm focusing on the senior class in honor of Senior Day and taking a look at how that group could have a big impact on the game.
First off, here is a full list of seniors playing their final game in Kinnick.
- Dominic Alvis
- Conor Boffeli
- Jordan Cotton
- C.J. Fiedorowicz
- Anthony Hitchens
- Christian Kirksey
- Casey Kreiter
- B.J. Lowery
- Nolan MacMillan
- Mike Meyer
- Tanner Miller
- James Morris
- Don Shumpert
- Gavin Smith
- Brett Van Sloten
It hasn't always felt like it this year, but that is a pretty impactful group of seniors. Really besides Smith, all the seniors have played a lot this year and have started games in their careers. I can't remember a class that was so full of contributors. Most of the time there are a handful of walk-ons and career backups. But this year's senior class was very good. There's a good shot that 6 or 7 guys get drafted.
It's been a bumpy ride for a lot of these guys through the past couple of years. There's been disappointment, injuries, tough losses, etc... But a win tomorrow would be an awesome way to send out this class and I think they're going to be a big key to winning the game.
The seniors on defense
You have to start with the 3 linebackers in this factor. Brady Hoke's style of ball is going to try to test the linebackers right up the middle of the field with inside zone running. Michigan's rush game has not been good lately and I expect the LBs to be up to the test. I also wouldn't be surprised if we see Morris or another LB spy on Devin Gardner on passing downs. Gardner picked Iowa's D apart last year with tons of time to stand around in the pocket as the D-line just played contain. So, Iowa's going to have to try to get pressure up front (hopefully Alvis will be healthy enough to play) and let the LBs cleanup if Gardner tries to scramble.
Gardner's passing stats have been a bit better than Michigan's running game, but he's been very prone to throwing interception or should-be-interceptions. Northwestern last week, had a few shots a picking off Gardner and winning that game, but failed to do so. Senior secondary members, Miller and Lowery, both have 3 interceptions on the year and if given the chance, I'm sure will make a play. Lowery's first shining moment 2 years ago came against Michigan breaking up a pass on 4th-and-goal to seal the win...tomorrow let's have another.
The seniors on offense
On the other side of the ball, Iowa's offense will depend on the run blocking from Boffeli, Van Sloten, and the rest of the offensive line (I wouldn't be surprised to see some of MacMillan as well). You can probably throw Fiedorowicz in the mix there too, as he's been an effective run blocker this year. I think Iowa will be able to get some push up front and establish a running game with Weisman, Bullock, and Canzeri. I have to think that Canzeri will get a large load of the carries, but with the more conservative style Hoke likes to play and the frigid temps, we might be looking at a conservative game plan from Ferentz as well...which probably means a lot of Weisman for 3 yards.
In the passing game, Fiedorowicz has a chance to step up. He finished strong last season and has been just okay this year. He's been a good target in the redzone, but has had some bad drops and mistakes elsewhere. In the recent victories against the Wolverines, Iowa's tight ends have played a big role.
Shumpert has also struggled at times this year, but has a chance to step up. He played really well against Purdue using his speed to get behind the D. Another big game could be really helpful for Iowa's offense.
The seniors on special teams
And finally special teams. Mike Meyer has been a heck of a kicker. He's going to finish his career near the top of all the kicker categories. His PAT streak is remarkable...he's somewhere over 100 straight now, not missing since he was a freshman. If this game becomes a FG battle (like Michigan's last game), then I like Iowa's chances with Meyer (unless it's some crazy WR-holder sliding into place for a last-second FG...that was pretty impressive). Meyer's partner is crime, long snapper Casey Kreiter has had a very solid career. You never really notice him, which is what you want out of your long snapper.
The other big senior special teamer for the Hawkeyes is Cotton. He's hasn't been as successful returning kicks as he was last year, but has been close to breaking one long as few times. A big return tomorrow could be a big spark.
The seniors, especially on defense, step up and have big games all around. The linebackers combine for 25 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and have an interception. Michigan struggles to sustain drives and only get 1 TD on a long pass. Iowa is able to get enough of a running game going to put up some points and eventually put it away in the second half.
Final Score: Iowa 20 - Michigan 13