Coming off their bye week, the No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-0) will play the No. 24 Michigan Wolverines (5-1, 1-1) on Saturday afternoon. The game will kick-off at 2:36 p.m. central time and will be televised on ABC (or ESPN if it’s not available).
Last season, Iowa beat Michigan 30-28.
For the Hawkeyes, playing in the Big House has posed some challenges as the team has lost its last eight of 10 games in Ann Arbor and this year’s visit comes with an even louder stadium with its new capacity of 113,000. But let’s not forget this is a great rivalry and a chance to see if either of these two teams are for real.
Taking a look at the Hawkeye’s depth chart, freshman Marcus Coker is listed as the No. 2 sophomore running back behind workhorse Adam Robinson. The Hawkeyes have struggled all season to fill the second running back spot after the mysterious loss of Brandon Wegher and the disappointing season-ending knee injury to senior Jewel Hamton.
Coker’s first start as a Hawkeye came against Ball State and his numbers were respectable: rushing 10 times for 60 yards and catching a 12-yard pass. Ferentz has said he continues to improve every week.
On the linebacker front, Troy Johnson will start at the middle linebacker position in place of the injured Jeff Tarpinian. Tarpinian is recovering from a neck injury incurred in the Ball State game. While he attempted to play in the Penn State game, his time was limited. Freshman James Morris will sit at No. 2 and after playing well against Penn State game with seven tackles, Iowa can make do with its talent pool.
And on the shaky kicking front, Ferentz gave the nod to freshman Mike Meyer. In the Penn State game, Meyer had one field goal and three extra points.
Defensive coordinator Norm Parker is out of the hospital but he will not be at the game. He is recovering from the amputation of his right foot. The team still hopes he’ll make it back for part of the season.
What challenges will the Hawkeyes face on Saturday? Michigan’s stellar Heisman contending quarterback, Denard Robinson.
Robinson leads the Big Ten in rushing offense (297.33 ypg) and total offense (533.67 ypg) and through last week’s game, the phenom quarterback/running back has 1,223 passing yards and 991 rushing yards. While the Hawkeyes will need to limit Robinson’s play, he is stoppable as evidenced by last week’s 34-17 loss against Michigan State. In Michigan’s toughest challenge to date, Robinson put up season-low numbers of 86 yards rushing, 215 yards passing and three interceptions.
In last year’s meeting between the two teams, Robinson replaced starting Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier at the end of the fourth quarter. He rushed nine times for 49 yards and completed three of four passes for 30 yards; however, Michigan’s hope for a comeback stopped when Hawkeye free safety Brett Greenwood intercepted Robinson’s pass at the Hawkeye 31 with 46 seconds left.
Michigan will play without its wide receiver Martavious Odoms on Saturday as he suffered a broken foot on Saturday.
Iowa’s defense continues to dominate and will have to play well to stop Robinson and Michigan’s offense. While Michigan ranks third nationally for total offense (533.7 yards per game) and sixth in rushing offense (297.3), the Hawkeyes defense will pose challenges as No. 1 in the country for scoring defense, No. 2 in rushing defense, No. 4 in total defense, and No. 10 in pass efficiency defense.
The Hawkeyes’ top-ranked defensive end Adrian Clayborn brought his A-game to the Penn State game with 10 tackles and will hopefully travel with it to Ann Arbor.
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi tends to be forgotten as his defense dominates the games and Hawkeye Nation chatter but the seasoned quarterback has shown a lot of improvement in his game performances from last season. He currently has a 176.8 quarterback rating in passing efficiency which gives him a No. 3 national ranking, 10 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Stanzi also needs to have a good game and get points on the board.
This game will be Iowa’s toughest game to date, but the Hawkeyes aren’t one to back down from a challenge at an out of town venue.
It won’t be pretty, but Iowa will take home the W.
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Written by Debbie Baratz