Just under ten months ago, the Iowa Hawkeyes faced off with the Michigan Wolverines after finding their way through a back door that was left open by the Wisconsin Badgers. The Wolverines blasted Iowa into another dimension after the Hawkeyes slowly let things slip away in the first half.
Now, in a new season with new faces, the two teams appear headed in different directions with Michigan sporting an undefeated record and a #4 ranking while the Hawkeyes have struggled to a 3-1 record with the worst offense in the country. That’s left Hawkeye fans frustrated and disappointed. But most of all, it’s left them looking for changes to get back to some semblance of the offensive mediocrity we saw a season ago.
So again, we asked Hawkeye fans this week if they felt like a change was needed at quarterback and again the answer was yes. However, the trend continues to be for wins to drive a smaller portion of the fanbase demanding a change under center. This week, we’re down to just 50% of fans calling for Alex Padilla to play against Michigan. That’s a 4% improvement over a week ago.
A largely proportion of the fanbase thinks a different change is needed to give the offense a spark. A full 62% of Hawkeye fans think former All-State QB and current defensive superstar Cooper DeJean should earn reps on the offense. While we didn’t ask the question, it’s fair to assume there’s a split in opinion on whether those reps should come exclusively at WR, where the Hawkeyes are dealing with myriad injuries, or whether DeJean might provide an answer to the first question at quarterback.
That’s not likely to happen, though head coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t rule out DeJean’s ability to play offense during his weekly media availability this week. He simply noted the team “needs him on defense.” Snort.
As obvious as it is that Iowa needs DeJean on defense, they may need more than him this week. The Hawkeye are facing a Michigan defense that is only giving up 11 points a game in their own right and with Iowa’s offensive issues, the defense may need to pitch a shutout to win.
Similar to our own polling, our friends over at Maize N Brew did their own polling this week and Michigan fans are expecting their defense to allow only a single offensive touchdown to the Hawkeyes in week five.
That’s probably pretty fair given how things have trended and some Hawkeye fans may be happy just getting to one TD. But Wolverine fans are a bit nervous about a particular unit on their defense which could provide Iowa fans a glimmer of hope.
To-date, the Iowa offensive line has struggled a bit, both in keeping Spencer Petras clean and in consistently opening up holes for the running game. The last two weeks, however, we’ve seen some progress in the run game and that may be the light at the end of the offensive tunnel. A consistent running game opens things up for the passing game, particularly in Iowa’s play-action oriented play book.
For Michigan fans, it’s the defensive line that’s of biggest concern - and by a very wide margin. Perhaps Iowa can find some consistency running the ball to shorten the game and turn this into a battle of turnovers.
While that may be a recipe for another upset of a top-5 team in Kinnick Stadium, it’s not the expectation. While roughly a third of fans predicted an Iowa win in this matchup before the season started, that number has dropped to just 22% during game week.
The fall off is likely attributable both to Iowa’s offensive woes and to the fact this game originally looked like it would be played under the Kinnick lights, but is now slated for FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff on Saturday morning.
While Iowa fans are pessimistic, Wolverine fans are equally optimistic. Despite Jim Harbaugh never winning a game in Kinnick either as a player or coach, Michigan fans by and large expect the Wolverines to not only win, but to cover the 10.5 point spread courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Despite the low expectations for this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game rematch, Iowa fans continue to grow a bit more optimistic about the season as a whole.
This week, only 14% of fans expect Iowa to finish the year with a losing record while 37% of fans now think Iowa will win 8 or 9 games. That’s approaching the numbers we saw during the preseason when Iowa fans on average predicted a finish right between 8-4 and 9-3.
As noted, Iowa’s matchup against Michigan is set to kick off at 11am CT on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on FOX following the network’s Big Noon Kickoff coverage live from the former Quad, between Petersen and Hillcrest Residence Halls.
It’s worth noting the last time FOX brought their production to Iowa City, the Hawkeyes took down top-5 Penn State under the lights.