A season ago, the Iowa offense struggled mightily while the defense opened the year with a blistering hot start. A slew of defensive scores and short fields propelled the Hawkeyes to a 4-0 start with a top-5 team headed to Kinnick Stadium for a major showdown with a national audience.
Of course, Iowa won that matchup with Penn State under the lights and jumped up to #2 in the nation. The Hawkeyes would falter the following week against Purdue, but ultimately found themselves atop the standings in the Big Ten West and headed to Indianapolis for a showdown with another top-5 opponent: the Michigan Wolverines.
Fast forward a year and there are some echoes of a season ago. The defense is still incredible, delivering two touchdowns and two safeties through four weeks, meaning they’ve accounted directly for 16 points this season. They’ve only given up 23 points. The special teams remain special and the offense remains... not special.
But unlike a season ago, that recipe has already cost the Hawkeyes a win. That of course came at the hands of Matt Campbell and the Iowa State Cyclones. Nonetheless, Iowa remains in position to back door their way into another trip to Indianapolis if they can get mediocre offensive output the rest of the way. The issue for Iowa now is the schedule, which coincidentally brings things full circle with the aforementioned Wolverines heading to Iowa City for a rematch of the Big Ten Championship Game midseason.
Michigan comes in undefeated and sporting a #4 ranking in both the AP and Coaches Polls. The Wolverines struggled a bit in week four with the Maryland Terrapins after pummeling the likes of UConn, Hawaii and Colorado State in the first three weeks of the year. They’re averaging a gaudy 50 points per game on the offensive side of the ball while giving up just 11 points per game on defense.
Here’s an early look at what you need to know about this week’s matchup.
Date: Saturday, October 1st
Time: 11:00 am CT
Matchup: Michigan Wolverines (4-0, 1-0) at Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1, 1-0)
Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
Preliminary Weather Forecast: temps in the mid-60s, 5% chance of rain
DraftKings Opening Line: Michigan -7.5, O/U 42
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Saturday’s matchup will be the 63rd meeting between the Hawkeyes and Wolverines. Michigan holds a commanding lead in the all-time series at 43-15-4. That was built on the back of a trio of dominant stretches from 1928-1957, 1964-1978 and 1986-2001. Under current Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferent, Iowa is 7-7 against Michigan. Iowa is 1-2 against Jim Harbaugh under Ferentz.
Notably, Michigan hasn’t beaten Iowa in Iowa City since 1998 when legendary coach Lloyd Carr defeated fellow legend Hayden Fry. The Hawkeyes are also 5-1 in their last six matchups against top-5 opponents inside Kinnick Stadium. However, the vast majority of those games have come under the lights when Iowa City is at its most raucous. This week’s matchup is of course not a night game with FOX opting to bring their Big Noon Kickoff to Iowa City and broadcast the game at 11am CT.
Preseason Prep Work
As we march toward kick off, be sure to check out our preseason preview for this week’s matchup. There’s loads of important details and unique looks at this week’s opponent, including these great stats:
2164 days: This time between games in which Iowa yielded 42+ points to an opponent. The game prior to the Big Ten Championship was the 2016
Christian McCafferyRose Bowl. Iowa has yielded 42+ points just nine times since 2000. They’ve lost every one.
1 sack: Even though it felt like Aidan Hutchinson lived in Iowa’s backfield seven months ago, he had the only sack for the Wolverines during that game. The Wolverines did have four tackles from loss but only Jaylen Harrell returns among the guys who had one.
6.6 yards per carry: Blake Corum, Michigan’s backup RB from last year, tallied 952 yards on 144 carries which calculated into the third highest among Big Ten running backs. His 11 TDs (9 behind the since departed Hassan Haskins) ranked sixth in the conference.
106 tackles: Though Michigan loses a lot on defense - Bill Connelly estimated it at 43% for 124th in the country - they return their leading tackler in Josh Ross. The graduate linebacker just about laps the next highest returning tackler, fellow LB Junior Colson.
Here’s a look at the preseason predictions for this one:
Staff Prediction: Iowa Loss, 50% of the vote with a caveat that one vote was an OR
Fan Prediction: Michigan Win, 67% of the vote
BizarroMath Prediction: Iowa 16.97, Michigan 28.62 (Michigan +11.65), 31.31% chance of win
Stay tuned all week as we dive deeper on the players, matchups and stats to know as the Hawkeyes face off with the Wolverines.