Happy Friday, folks. Fair warning: this might be a bit of a somber read.
The truth is, by this point of the season we know what we have with this team. And I expect most of you already have a pretty good feel for what’s going to happen tomorrow night in Kinnick—odds are it won’t be pretty—and that’s a damn shame. These are the types of games that are supposed to capture the imaginations of fans, inspire hope for a season-defining upset, generate a rabid and electric home environment. Instead, what we’re left with is an apathetic resignation to the result we’ve come to expect—and who could blame us?
*takes deep breath*
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the things Iowa needs to (and won’t) do to win.
Ugly it up
This is probably a given—and easier said than done—but Iowa’s only chance in this game is to muck it up and hang around; the uglier the game the better, as far as the Hawks are concerned. Maybe if the Hawkeyes are able to stay within striking range down the stretch and get a few home field bounces they’ll be able to pull off the upset. I’m not holding my breath, obviously, but that’s the only path to victory in this game: make it ugly and get lucky.
Run the damn ball
I feel like a broken record here, but the correlation between Iowa’s success running the ball and success on the scoreboard is undeniable. The lowest rushing total among the Hawkeyes’ wins this season? 179 yards against Minnesota. The highest total among the losses? 83 yards against Wisconsin. I said it before the Penn State game and it bears repeating: when the Hawkeyes can’t run, they lose. Simple as that.
What’s not so simple is identifying a weak point in a Michigan defense that is giving up only 10.7 points per game, good for tops in the country. Even if you set aside star linebacker/safety/returner/all around badass Jabrill Peppers, Jim Harbaugh has assembled easily one of the most talented defenses in college football—a concerning proposition for an Iowa offense that has effectively waffled between mediocre and abysmal all year.
Win the turnover battle
Unfortunately for Iowa, the few things this team does consistently well (turnover margin, red zone efficiency) are also strengths of the Wolverines. Nonetheless, the Hawkeyes don’t stand a chance in this game without being plus a couple in the turnover margin. The good news is that Iowa has done alright in that department this year (4th in the Big Ten). The bad news? Michigan is really effing good and there’s little reason to think the Wolverines will suddenly develop an affinity for coughing the ball up.
Try as I might, I can’t think of any reason to expect this game to be all that competitive. Based on everything I’ve seen this season, Michigan is simply on another level. Remember that Penn State team that embarrassed Iowa last week? Yeah, Michigan brushed them aside 49-10 in September.
The fact of the matter is, this will probably be another game where Iowa fans feel compelled to change the channel by halftime. Prove me wrong Hawkeyes.
Michigan 48, Iowa 10