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Posts Tagged ‘Kirk Ferentz’

2014 Big Ten football position rankings: Coaches (part one)

Thursday, August 14th, 2014


Big-Ten-position-rankings-header-Coaches

This is the 11th installment of Maize and Go Blue’s series that ranks the best Big Ten players at each position for the upcoming season. Each week, until Michigan’s opener, one position will be previewed, looking at the players who will excel in 2014, not necessarily the ones who did so in previous seasons. However, now that offense, defense, and special teams have been covered, we are bending the definition of the words “position” and “players” and ranking the Big Ten’s best head coaches. This list will be split into two parts in order to provide you with thorough and in-depth analysis. Here’s Part One:

Previously

Quarterbacks: Part One, Part Two | Running Backs: Part One, Part Two | Wide Receivers: Part One, Part Two
Tight Ends: Part One, Part Two | Offensive Line: Part One, Part Two | Defensive Line: Part One, Part Two
Linebackers: Part One, Part Two | Cornerbacks: Part One, Part Two | Safeties:Part One, Part Two
Special Teams: Kicking Specialists, Return Specialists

10. Kevin Wilson, Indiana | Overall Record: 10-26 (3 yrs) – Record at Indiana: 10-26 (3 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 5-7 3-5 4th (Leaders)
2012 4-8 2-6 5th (Leaders)
2011 1-11 0-8 6th (Leaders)
Career Totals 10-26 5-19    
(Michael Conroy, AP)

(Michael Conroy, AP)

Two Big Ten head coaches vied for the 10th spot on this list: Indiana’s Kevin Wilson and Maryland’s Randy Edsall. Both enter 2014 with their respective programs in oddly similar predicaments. Both assumed the head-coaching position at their respective programs prior to 2011, and both wish that their first seasons in Bloomington and College Park—Indiana went 1-11 and Maryland went 2-10—could be wiped from everyone’s memory Men in Black-style. Since those initial debacles, though, their programs have progressed gradually. Wilson’s Hoosiers increased their win total to four in 2012 and five in 2013, while Edsall’s Terrapins notched four and seven wins in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Both now find themselves in the Big Ten East, where they both yearn to lead their programs into the upper echelon of the division, joining the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State.

So which of these two head coaches is most capable of making this possible? At first glance, Edsall seems like the correct choice. Edsall spent his first 12 years as a head coach at Connecticut, transforming the Huskies from a Division I-AA football program into a two-time Big East champion and 2011 Fiesta Bowl participant. Then, after a rocky start in College Park, his Terrapins were poised to break out last year. They won five of their first six games, suffering their only loss, albeit a rout, to eventual national champion Florida State. However, significant injuries to key players, like quarterback C.J. Brown, wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, and defensive backs Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson, derailed their season. What could have been a nine- or, heck, even a 10-win season finished with an underwhelming seven victories. This fall, though, most of those injured Terps will be back and healthy, which is why Maryland has been selected by many as a potential sleeper in the Big Ten. Accordingly, an inclusion of Edsall in the top 10 of this list would be justified.

However, Edsall needs to have one of his best seasons ever as a coach for Maryland to surprise folks, and I do not think he has it in him. Maryland may have a talented team, but let’s just say that the Big Ten did the Terps no favors with regards to scheduling. The two opponents that Maryland must face from the Big Ten West? The two favorites: Wisconsin and Iowa. Throw those two smack dab in the middle of a six-game gauntlet that includes home games against Ohio State and Michigan State and road contests against Penn State and Michigan, and the losses suddenly start to add up quickly.  Maryland has the talent to cobble together a double-digit-win season, but, with that schedule, a six- or seven-game losing streak certainly is not out of the question. If Maryland begins to fall into a tailspin, can Edsall pull the Terps together and out of such a dive? My prediction: no.

This is why Wilson sneaked past Edsall into the No. 10 spot. Indiana by no means has a gimme schedule, but Wilson has already done more with less than Edsall. When Wilson became the head coach at Indiana, he took over a program that had been a perennial doormat in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have had only one winning season since 1994 (2007). They finished no higher than 69th nationally and higher than 86th only once in the F/+ Combined Ratings—a set of rankings which combines two advanced statistical algorithms—from 2005 to 2011. Yet, in 2012 and 2013, Indiana ranked 74th and 56th in the F/+ Combined Ratings, respectively. With an offense full of firepower, Wilson undeniably has Indiana on an upward trajectory. If Wilson and new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr can repair what has been the Big Ten’s worst defense each season of Wilson’s tenure, the Hoosiers have a fantastic opportunity to play in just their second bowl game in the past two decades.

9. Jerry Kill, Minnesota | Overall Record: 144-94 (20 yrs) – Record at Minnesota: 17-21 (3 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 8-5 4-4 4th (Legends) Texas Bowl (L)
2012 6-7 2-6 T5th (Legends) Texas Bowl (L)
2011 3-9 2-6 6th (Legends)
Career Totals 17-21 8-16   0-2
(AP)

(AP)

New Year’s Eve in 2006 was a turning point for the Minnesota football program. It was two days after the Gophers had crapped away a 31-point, third-quarter lead to lose to Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl and finish with a 6-7 record. It was also the day they shockingly announced they had fired head coach Glen Mason. In his ten years in Minneapolis, Mason had transformed Minnesota into a respectable Big Ten football program. His 53.5-win-percentage was the best among any Gophers head coach since George Hauser, who coached them from 1942 to 1944. Mason also led them to seven bowl games in an eight-year span after they had not played in one for 12 straight seasons. However, after the crushing collapse in the Insight Bowl, the Gophers, who never placed higher than fourth in the Big Ten under Mason, believed that he could not take them from mediocrity to excellence. Thus, they kicked him out.

Four years later, Minnesota realized it had made a monumental mistake and needed to rectify it. Jerry Kill, who had been very successful in his first four stops as a head coach at Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois, and Northern Illinois, was hired by Minnesota to clean up the mess left behind by Tim Brewster. Minnesota had hired Brewster to lead it to the next tier of Big Ten football, except he submarined the Gophers back to the depths of the obscurity they experienced for decades before Mason arrived. Thus far, Kill seems to be pulling them back to the level where Mason had the Gophers. After a tough first season during which Minnesota won only three games, Kill’s Gophers have been 14-12 the past two years with back-to-back appearances in a bowl game. In fact, the eight wins Minnesota tallied last season were the most by the program since it won 10 in 2003. Kill has Minnesota back on the right track, and he may just be the coach that can take Minnesota to where Mason never could.

On the other hand, Kill unfortunately has a disorder that may prevent him from accomplishing this feat. Kill has been diagnosed with epilepsy, a neurological “disorder in which the nerve cell activity in one’s brain is disturbed, causing a seizure during which one experiences abnormal behavior, symptoms and sensations, including loss of consciousness.” Kill tries to control it by taking certain medication, but he still experiences epileptic seizures occasionally. He suffered at least one seizure each of his first three seasons at Minnesota, including one on the sidelines in his first home game in 2011 and one just before facing Michigan in 2013. The seizure in 2013 forced Kill to take a leave of absence to address his health issues. It would be naïve to think that his epileptic seizures cannot be a distraction to his staff and his players. The seizures are not a distraction in that his staff and players always wonder when the next one will occur. But the seizures can be a distraction when they happen, causing those around Kill to be more concerned for his health and safety, as they should, than anything else. This is not to say that Kill should not coach. This is not to say Kill is a poor coach. This is to say only that his epilepsy may limit his potential as a coach. Nonetheless, nothing would be better than to see Kill fully control his epilepsy and no longer experience seizures in 2014 and beyond. Let’s hope this is what comes to fruition.

8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa | Overall Record: 120-100 (18 yrs) – Record at Iowa: 108-79 (15 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 8-5 5-3 T2nd (Legends) Outback (L)
2012 4-8 2-6 T5th (Legends)
2011 7-6 4-4 4th (Legends) Insight (L)
2010 8-5 4-4 T4th Insight (W)
2009 11-2 6-2 T2nd Orange (W)
2008 9-4 5-3 T4th Outback (W)
2007 6-6 4-4 T5th
2006 6-7 2-6 T8th Alamo (L)
2005 7-5 5-3 T3rd Outback (L)
2004 10-2 7-1 T1st Capital One (W)
2003 10-3 5-3 T4th Outback (W)
2002 11-2 8-0 T1st Orange (L)
2001 7-5 4-4 T4th Alamo (W)
2000 3-9 3-5 8th
1999 1-10 0-8 11th
Career Totals 108-79 64-56   6-5
(Scott Boehm, Getty Images)

(Scott Boehm, Getty Images)

A person may be one of the longest-tenured head coaches in college football, but this does not mean that he or she is one of the best head coaches in college football. I present to you Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. On December 2, 1998, Iowa named Ferentz the head coach of its football program. Over 15 years later, Ferentz still is the head man in Iowa City, making him the fourth-longest tenured active head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). In 15 seasons, Ferentz has done plenty of good at a program located in a state not fertile with talented high-school recruits. At Iowa, he has won a share of two Big Ten championships (2002 and 2004) and appeared in two Orange Bowls (2003 and 2010). Accordingly, in the past, many have praised Ferentz’s coaching ability, claiming few could do at Iowa what he has done.

However, after Iowa’s appearance in the 2010 Orange Bowl, Ferentz’s coaching ability had slipped as Iowa’s record gradually had dipped each season. In 2010, Iowa had an 8-5 record with the help of a bowl win and finished No. 21 in the F/+ Combined Ratings. In 2011, Iowa lost its bowl game, causing its record and F/+ Combined Rating to fall to 7-6 and 46th, respectively. Then, in 2012, the bottom seemed to drop out. The Hawkeyes managed to win only four games and was not bowl-eligible for the first time under Ferentz since 2000. It should be no surprise that Iowa’s F/+ Combined Rating plummeted all the way down to 72nd. Fans were furious. Yes, they were upset that the program was trending downwards, but they were even more upset because there was nothing the school could do about it. Ferentz’s contract has been extended all the way until 2020, and, if Iowa had chosen to fire him after 2012, the buyout would have been just shy of $19 million! Iowa was stuck with Ferentz, whether it wanted be or not.

Yet Ferentz not only stopped the bleeding last year but momentarily turned the program back around. Iowa’s 8-5 record may not be sparkly, but the Hawkeyes did not suffer one bad loss all season. In fact, the five opponents to whom they lost—Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and LSU—combined for a 56-12 record in 2013. Instead, Iowa defeated all teams it was supposed to and even a few it was not, helping Iowa rank 29th in the F/+ Combined Ratings. It was a satisfying season for the Hawkeyes that gave their fans hope that, with a much more accommodating schedule this season, the program can contend for a third Big Ten championship under Ferentz in 2014. However, with an oft-ridiculed offensive coordinator in Greg Davis on staff, Ferentz still needs to prove that last season was not an outlier and that his coaching ways from a decade ago have indeed returned.

7. Bo Pelini, Nebraska | Overall Record: 58-24 (6 yrs) – Record at Nebraska: 58-24 (6 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 9-4 5-3 T2nd (Legends) Gator (W)
2012 10-4 7-1 1st (Legends) Capital One (L)
2011 9-4 5-3 3rd (Legends) Capital One (L)
Career Totals 28-12 17-7   1-2
(Bruce Thorson, USA Today Sports)

(Bruce Thorson, USA Today Sports)

The head coach of a Nebraska football program that has displayed uncanny consistency during his regime has had one heck of a rollercoaster ride. Bo Pelini has been Nebraska’s head coach for six seasons. And, in each of those seasons, Nebraska has recorded exactly four losses. Yes, that is correct. This means that, for six straight seasons, Nebraska has had either a 9-4 or 10-4 record under Pelini.

After enduring the train wreck that was Bill Callahan, Huskers fans initially were pleased. In each of the first three seasons of Pelini’s tenure, Nebraska won a share of the Big 12 North, which led to appearances in the Big 12 Championship Game in 2009 and 2010. In both of those championship games, the Huskers came oh-so close to becoming conference champions. In 2009 against Oklahoma, they blew a 17-point, second-quarter lead to lose, 23-20; in 2010 against undefeated Texas, they conceded a 46-yard field goal as time expired to fall by a one-point margin, 13-12. These undoubtedly were devastating losses for Nebraska and its faithful, but the belief was that Pelini would breakthrough and win that first conference title soon after Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011.

However, this has yet to materialize, and Huskers fans have become more than agitated with Pelini. They thought the conference-championship drought would finally end in 2012 when the hot Huskers met 7-5 Wisconsin rather than undefeated Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game because the Buckeyes had been handed a postseason ban. Instead, Wisconsin wiped the floor with the Huskers, running through them for 539 rushing yards and routing them, 70-31. Things got only worse for Pelini last season. After a home loss to UCLA, a two-year-old audio tape with a profane tirade by Pelini criticizing the fan base was leaked to the media, causing Pelini to further lose fan support. Then, following a humiliating loss to Iowa in the season finale in which Pelini threw multiple temper tantrums on the sideline, he declared in the postgame press conference, “If they want to fire me, go ahead. … I don’t apologize for anything I have done.” It seemed imminent that Nebraska would let Pelini go.

But Nebraska decided to hold onto Pelini, and there subsequently has been an uptick in his support. First, he coached the Huskers to a win against an SEC opponent, albeit the injury-riddled Georgia Bulldogs, in the Gator Bowl, Second, he began to show a lighter, more comedic side to his personality on social media and at Nebraska’s spring game. No longer is Pelini viewed only as a coach that can explode into a thousand suns on the sideline but as a coach that knows when not to take himself too seriously. While this has been positive for Pelini’s public relations, it does not change what is expected from him and his team this fall. Nebraska is facing lots of tough questions about its quarterback, its offensive line, and its defense, which has lost multiple starters to injuries within the past week. It seems quite possible that Nebraska’s streak of four-loss seasons could come to a halt and not for the better. If this is the case, will the slight boost in Pelini’s public perception mitigate the damage? Likely not. Therefore, Pelini must show that Nebraska, a proud football program, is heading in the right direction. Otherwise, his rollercoaster ride may come to a stop.

6. Brady Hoke, Michigan | Overall Record: 73-63 (11 yrs) – Record at Michigan: 26-13 (3 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 7-6 3-5 5th (Legends) Buffalo Wild Wings (L)
2012 8-5 6-2 2nd (Legends) Outback (L)
2011 11-2 6-2 2nd (Legends) Sugar (W)
Career Totals 26-13 15-9   1-2
(Charlie Neibergall, AP)

(Charlie Neibergall, AP)

Throughout the offseason, there has been much talk by media and fans alike about Michigan head coach Brady Hoke sitting of the hot seat. They point to Hoke’s sub-.500 record (47-50) prior to his current stint at Michigan as a sign that he is underqualified. They point to him not wearing a headset on the sideline as an indication that he is in over his head. They point to Michigan’s 15-11 record the past two seasons, after the Wolverines had an unexpected trip to the Sugar Bowl in his first year in 2011, as proof that the program is deteriorating under his watch. Heck, the talk was loud enough that even we at Maize and Go Blue had a roundtable to address the topic. The truth is Hoke is not currently on the hot seat. It may be a bit warm, but, unless Michigan fails to be bowl-eligible, Hoke will be back in 2015.

What many fail to realize is just how much the Rich Rodriguez era set Michigan back. Many believed that the Wolverines had completely recovered and returned to prominence after their 11-2 record in 2011, but it was just a façade. The underlying crevices in the foundation were still there, waiting to be unearthed. Rodriguez’s recruiting in 2010 and 2011 left Michigan with too many holes in the depth chart, especially at offensive line, which currently has only one scholarship upperclassman. Hoke has tried to plug the holes in the depth chart as quickly as possible, landing the No. 6 and No. 4 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013, respectively, according to 247 Sports, but these talented recruits have been only sophomores or freshmen. Mix this in with poor injury luck and head-scratching play-calling from former offensive coordinator Al Borges, and Michigan’s record the past two seasons makes more sense.

This does not mean that Hoke is immune from blame, though. It was Hoke who hired Borges and allowed him to implement such disjointed offensive schemes. It was also Hoke, as the head coach, that reportedly failed to manage the chemistry and leadership among the players last season. However, Hoke seems to have fixed these mistakes, firing Borges to bring former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier on staff and altering the leadership structure of Michigan’s roster. However, there are few excuses left to shield Hoke. Yes, the offensive line still is ridiculously young and inexperienced, and Michigan must play all three of its main rivals on the road for the first time in school history. But, with the resources at his disposal, now is the time for Hoke to show that Michigan is on its way back to being one of, if not the, best in the Big Ten. If that happens, the “hot seat” talk will die and Hoke will find himself in the top five on this list. If it does not happen, well, he may not be on this list in a few years.

So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Part One of these rankings? Should Michigan’s Brady Hoke be at No. 6? Or is he too high or too low? Is there a head coach that should be in the bottom half of the top 10 of these rankings? And who do you think will top this list at No. 1? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Tomorrow, we will reveal who will be the five best head coaches in the Big Ten this fall.

Big Ten Media Days: Word clouding the Big Ten coaches

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014


All 14 Big Ten coaches got 15 minutes apiece at the podium in front of the assembled media in the Hilton Chicago on Monday. Each delivered an opening statement and then fielded a few questions. Typically, there isn’t much news to come out of these sessions. It’s more of a time to drum up excitement about the upcoming season and tout all the things they’re excited about. Every coach has fantasies about Big Ten titles this time of year and doesn’t want to reveal too much, so to spice things up a bit we took an idea that we really liked from the SEC SB Nation blog Team Speed Kills and applied it to each of the Big Ten coaches’ speeches.

We used Wordle to spit out a word cloud for each coach based on the transcript from his 15 minutes at the podium. The bigger the word, the more often it was used, so you can get an idea of what each coach places the most emphasis on. As a Maize and Go Blue exclusive, we also scrubbed away the coach speak and translated what each coach was really saying.

Brady Hoke – Michigan

Hoke

There must be something wrong with this thing. “Tremendous” doesn’t fill the entire page. Neither does “Well…” or “Fergodsakes”. And contrary to popular belief in Columbus and East Lansing, although “think” was his most-used word today, Hoke does “think” about more than just donuts. He didn’t even mention them once in his 15 minutes. But I wouldn’t blame him if he did. There’s a great donut shop a short walk from the Hilton.

Urban Meyer – Ohio State

Urban

I THINK we’re GOING to be GOOD you GUYS. Good enough to have a grand total of zero Big Ten titles and zero bowl wins in my first two seasons. You know what else is good? This Chicago pizza. Have you guys ever had this stuff? It’s JUST so cheesy and…deep. So much better than that other stuff.

Mark Dantonio – Michigan State

Dantonio

You know, we had a GREAT season last YEAR and it was all because of that one GAME when we beat Michigan. The way THINGS are GOING, we’re number ONE in the state as far as FOOTBALL is concerned. Oh, we won the Rose Bowl? Well, we beat Michigan. Where’s the threat?

Bo Pelini – Nebraska

Pelini

I THINK my cat is enjoying himself up in the room. As soon as I’m done talking about FOOTBALL, I’m GOING to take him to see a LOT of Chicago THINGS. It will MAKE his day. You know, it’s LOOKING like he’s the secret ingredient to the TEAM’s success this season. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

James Franklin – Penn State

Franklin

I’m REALLY EXCITED about this PROGRAM. I THINK it’s GOING to be much easier than it was in the SEC. THINGS aren’t really comparable as far as facilities are concerned, but hey, it’s an OPPORTUNITY and I can’t wait to meet Sandy Barbour woman.

Gary Andersen – Wisconsin

Andersen

I’m glad to begin my second YEAR at Wisconsin. We don’t hear much about Brigham YOUNG around here and that’s always a GOOD thing. These cheese-loving folks are about as GOOD as it GETs. You know, the Packers have that tradition where they let the KIDS give the PLAYERS bike rides, and with the YOUTH we have I THINK that’s a good POSITION to take with this TEAM.

Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern

Fitzgerald

I THINK it’s so GREAT that you GUYS haven’t asked about unions yet. We just want to play FOOTBALL. I’m not GOING to talk about the WAY our former QUARTERBACK tried to hurt our PROGRAM last YEAR by trying to unionize. These guys are a TEAM, not employees. LOOK, I won’t talk about it at all.

Kirk Ferentz – Iowa

Ferentz

It’s CERTAINLY a GREAT YEAR for Big Ten Media Days with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland. I’ve been coming to this THING for 16 YEARS and it has gotten stale. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve GOT some GOOD coaches in this conference but I THINK Kyle and Randy have what it takes to spice things up a little bit, kind of like Greg Davis and Phil Parker did for me in Iowa City last season.

Kevin Wilson – Indiana

Wilson

Wait, we can’t JUST PLAY offense in the Big Ten? Why didn’t you GUYS tell me that three YEARs ago? My boy Rich Rod told me that’s how you succeed in this conference. I’m starting to THINK he was just pulling my chain. I had to bring in a new defensive coordinator this offseason and he’s GOING to have to get the job done. Go big or go HOME, right?

Jerry Kill – Minnesota

Kill

I’ve GOT this program trending in the right direction, getting BETTER each YEAR, and I THINK that will continue. Have you guys seen that brown jug thing? My KIDS were asking about it, but I’ve GOTTA say, I don’t think that thing actually exists. If it does, our PLAYERS are going to GET it DONE this season. Oh, who am I kidding?

Randy Edsall – Maryland

Edsall

Crabcakes and football. That’s what MARYLAND does! We’re GOING to win the BIG East…I mean ACC…I mean American Athletic Conf…wait, what conference am I in now? Big TEN! That’s right. I THINK I’m gonna need Kirk to show me around.

Tim Beckman – Illinois

Beckman

FOOTBALL! We’ve got lots of PLAYERS, man. But with Scheelhaase gone we need a new QUARTERBACK, so this offseason I set up shop in Tallahassee when I heard Famous Jameis might be in trouble. I really WANT that guy. But it didn’t work out. Anyone else have sanctions going on this YEAR?

Kyle Flood – Rutgers

Flood

This is a cute city you midwestern folks have out here. I mean, REALLY, it’s cute, but it doesn’t compare to the BIG city we have in my part of the country. Chicago has one FOOTBALL team, New York have two, and you know what: they play in Jersey, home of RUTGERS, the school that started football.

Darrell Hazell – Purdue

Hazell

Alright you GUYS. THINGS are GOING just RIGHT for us this YEAR. Have you heard about our 6-foot-8, 400-pound PLAYER? We’ve got the biggest drum and now the biggest FOOTBALL player in the conference. That should guarantee us at least two wins this year.

Frozen: Iowa 24 – Michigan 21

Sunday, November 24th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

Following last week’s triple-overtime victory at Northwestern, Michigan had a chance to continue to build momentum heading into the big showdown next week with unbeaten rival Ohio State. Instead, with wind chills hovering around zero in Iowa City, Michigan’s offense remained frozen and Iowa handed the Wolverines their fourth loss of the season, 24-21.

The game started on a high note when, on Iowa’s first play of the game, Jake Ryan got pressure on quarterback Jake Rudock and Brennen Beyer picked it off at the Iowa 7-yard line. He carried it into the end zone to put Michigan ahead 7-0.

Final Stats
Michigan Iowa
Score 21 24
Record 7-4 (3-4) 7-4 (4-3)
Total Yards 158 407
Net Rushing Yards 60 168
Net Passing Yards 98 239
First Downs 10 21
Turnovers 1 4
Penalties-Yards 2-20 3-31
Punts-Yards 10-354 4-150
Time of Possession 26:35 33:25
Third Down Conversions 4-of-14 4-of-15
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 1-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 1-4 1-14
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-2
PATs 3-for-3 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 3-of-5
Full Box Score

On their next possession, Iowa drove down the field, but kicker Mike Meyer missed a 36-yard field goal. Michigan wasn’t able to do anything with its possession and Matt Wile’s punt into the stiff wind went just 19 yards. Iowa took over at Michigan’s 45, and punched it in seven plays later on a 5-yard pass to tight end CJ Fiedorowicz.

Michigan went three-and-out, and once again, Wile’s punt into the wind gave Iowa possession on Michigan’s side of the field, this time at the 42. But Iowa couldn’t do anything with it and failed to convert a 4th-and-4.

At the beginning of the second quarter Michigan punted again, this time with the wind, and Iowa was forced to start at its own three. On 3rd-and-8, Blake Countess picked off Rudock at the Iowa 30, and Michigan took advantage of the short field. Six straight runs put Michigan at the Hawkeye two, and on 2nd-and-goal, Devin Gardner connected with tight end AJ Williams to put Michigan back ahead at 14-7.

Late in the second quarter, Iowa punter Connor Kornbrath found out what Wile had to deal with in the first. His punt went just 27 yards into the wind and Michigan took possession at the Iowa 47. Ten plays later, Gardner completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Gallon to give Michigan 21-7 halftime lead.

Despite a 14-point lead, Michigan’s offense had just 113 total yards in the first half, taking advantage of a defensive touchdown and good field position.

The second half, however, was a different story. On the third play of the third quarter, Rudock found Tevaun Smith across the middle, who raced 55 yards for a touchdown. Michigan’s four offensive possessions in the quarter went three plays, five yards; three plays, zero yards; three plays, six yards; four plays, minus-one yard.

It was only a matter of time before Iowa would capitalize, and they did so on their first possession of the fourth quarter, driving 60 yards on nine plays, culminating with a 9-yard Mark Weisman touchdown run to tie the game at 21.

The interception forced by Jake Ryan was the highlight of the game for Michigan (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan’s ensuing possession lost four yards in three plays and the Wolverines punted it back to Iowa. Nine plays later, Meyer hit a 34-yard field goal to give the Hawkeyes their first lead of the game, 24-21.

Needing some late-game magic like a week ago, Michigan mounted its first positive drive of the second half. On 3rd-and-8, Gardner completed a pass to Jeremy Jackson for 18 yards to the 50. After a loss of one, Fitzgerald Toussaint took a screen pass 13 yards to the Iowa 38. Toussaint lost a yards on the next play, and on 2nd-and-11, Gardner rushed to his left for eight yards, which would have set up a short third down already in field goal range. But Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens stripped the ball from Gardner’s right hand and recovered it along the sideline.

Iowa needed just to run out the clock to seal the win. Michigan’s defense held the Hawkeyes on first and second down, but on 3rd-and-10, Rudock completed a 12-yard pass to Fiedorowicz to end the game.

Michigan finished the game with just 158 total yards of offense – fewer than it had in the losses to Michigan State and Nebraska – and just 10 first downs. Gardner completed 13-of-28 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Derrick Green rushed for 27 yards on 11 carries, while Toussaint carried the ball just six times for 12 yards. Gallon caught six passes for 47 yards and Devin Funchess, who dropped three or four catchable passes, was held to just one reception for two yards.

The only positive to come out of the loss – and it’s a hollow one at that – is that Michigan set the all-time NCAA record for consecutive games without being shut out, breaking a tie with BYU. It was Michigan’s 362nd straight game putting points on the board, dating back to a 1984 game at Iowa.

Michigan now heads home to close out the regular season with Ohio State, who has won 23 straight games and has already locked up a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State. The Buckeyes, ranked third in the BCS standings, still have hopes of a national championship if either Alabama or Florida State stumbles. Michigan will surely be a heavy underdog, but stranger things have happened.

M&GB staff predictions: Iowa

Friday, November 22nd, 2013


Last week, all seven of us had pretty similar predictions, and if Brendan Gibbons hadn’t made the last second field goal to send the game into overtime, we all would have been over. But after the three overtimes played out and Michigan’s offense finally found the end zone not once but twice, we all ended up under the final score. This week, Michigan faces a very good defense in a place the Wolverines haven’t won since 2005 in what will likely be poor weather conditions. Can Michigan build on the momentum from last week’s thrilling win, or will Iowa hand Michigan its third loss in four games? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Justin: Al Borges did a good job of keeping the playbook pretty vanilla for 59 minutes and 50 seconds last week. Unfortunately, Ohio State now has on tape the rush field goal that the staff had been trying to keep under wraps. Then, in overtime, he was forced to open things up a bit in order to get the win.

This week, look for a game plan similar to what he used in regulation against Northwestern. The Buckeyes are just one week away, so no need to show them anything. Save the reverses and double reverses and triple reverses and halfback passes and flea-flickers and fumblerooskis and statue of Liberties for next week. Do just enough to eek out the win. But this time it won’t be enough because Iowa’s defense > Northwestern’s. And they have pink locker rooms.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Iowa
Justin 13 16
Chris 20 23
Josh 13 20
Sam 10 13
Derick 17 21
Katie 17 13
Drew 13 17
M&GB Average 15 18

Iowa 16 – Michigan 13

Chris: Iowa 23 – Michigan 20

Josh: See yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.

Iowa 20 – Michigan 13

Sam: With basketball season now in full force, I don’t find a ton of free time to write about what’s left in the football season. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Michigan takes to the road for a second straight Big Ten barn-burner of a game that once again looks to be low-scoring and, frankly, somewhat boring. The Wolverines have not scored a touchdown in five consecutive regulation quarters and boast an offensive line that is in complete shambles. Devin Gardner, for his part, continues to have a difficult time reading blitzes and running away from them, which has contributed to the nearly 20 sacks taken in the past three games.

In Iowa City, I don’t expect too much to change. The offense will struggle to move the ball forward with any consistency and the defense will be solid.

Playing against the Hawkeyes will be quite like looking in a mirror for the Wolverines. Iowa is pretty mediocre all around on offense and features a bruiser of a running back that shouldn’t be able to get more than 3.5 yards a carry on Michigan and a quarterback who has tossed nine interceptions. Their defense is very solid and has allowed 20 or more points against only Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. Iowa’s four losses are against teams that are ranked going into this weekend and their wins are unimpressive across the board.

It’s anyone’s guess as to what gives this weekend, but I think home field advantage might be a good place to start. Three of Iowa’s losses have come at home, but Michigan has been putrid away from the Big House for the better part of Brady Hoke’s tenure.

This game should be close until the bitter end when an Iowa field goal decides it. I’ll take the Hawkeyes.

Iowa 13 – Michigan 10

Fitz Toussaint is back but Derrick Green's performance against Northwestern warrants the bigger workload this week (MGoBlue.com)

Derick: Michigan continued to struggle on the road last week when the offense scored just nine points in regulation. This weekend, the team goes up against a much stronger Iowa defense.

Derrick Green gave the Wolverines a bit of a rushing threat in Evanston, and he will need to do the same on Saturday.

But on the road against a stingy defense? Doesn’t sound good for Michigan on offense.

Iowa 21 – Michigan 17

Katie: I feel like, you know what scratch that, I know that Michigan’s record could so easily have been worse than our 7-3 standing right now. The Maize and Blue faithful have held their breath against Akron, UConn, for quite a while against Indiana, and last week’s Northwestern matchup. I don’t know how the Wolverines have pulled it off I really don’t, but with two games left in the regular season I’m not going to pretend like a mark in the win column means that we’re improving. The same problems have been there all season, and to do nothing about them and keep playing the same way is the definition of insanity. Devin Gardner showed some level-headedness in OT. Yes, he threw the ball well then. But the coaches should have pulled him for freshman Shane Morris weeks ago. And running plays up the gut with our offensive line? Really Borges? Where is the imagination? I know these kids are struggling but maybe just something different. And the defense going into prevent, rushing three guys on crucial plays so that they give the call time to develop? No thanks.

It’s late in the season, so I’m venting now. I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude and brush aside the things that are irksome, like say Hoke not wearing a headset. So when the question is how we’re going to do away against Iowa (6-4) I’ll just go ahead and say that we could eke it out. But will it be pretty? Probably not. Although Iowa has raked up some wins over meager opponents, their points against ranking is 12th in the nation. Ohio State put up the most points anyone has scored against the Hawkeyes this season with 34, and that was an away game. The other Big Ten contenders Michigan State and Wisconsin scored 26 and 28, respectively in their games against them. So Michigan will have to put up points, which of late the team has struggled immensely trying to do. Truth be told though the running game is getting slightly better, and that could play a huge factor if we can gain yardage on the ground.

Of course no one knows how this will go, but I do know one thing. This time I won’t be holding my breath.

Michigan 17 – Iowa 13

Brady Hoke is looking for the first back-to-back road wins of his Michigan tenure (MGoBlue.com)

Drew: Remember my first “Inside the Numbers” column five weeks ago? The one explaining how Penn State needed an extraordinary amount of “last-minute luck” to topple Michigan in quadruple overtime? Well, Michigan was fortunate enough to benefit from it at least once this season, miraculously squeaking by a Northwestern squad that has now lost six straight.

Here are just a few things Michigan needed to transpire to beat the Wildcats: (1) NU dropping a wide-open touchdown pass in the first half; (2) NU dropping at least six interceptions even though no team in the nation had picked off more passes than NU beforehand; (3) NU allowing U-M to convert two fourth downs during the final drive of regulation; and (4) NU failing to recover Devin Funchess’ fumble in double overtime and seal its first conference win.

That should cover most of the “last-minute luck.” No? That list is missing something? Like what? Oh, the Michigan-fire-drill-substituting, Drew Dileo-power-sliding, Brendan Gibbons-still-backpedaling, 44-yard field goal to send the game into overtime? Yeah, that too.

It was a memorable and much-needed road win for the Wolverines, but U-M probably wishes it had saved that “last-minute luck” for tomorrow. Since 1994, all six Michigan-Iowa contests played in Kinnick Stadium have been decided by eight points or less.  Four of those six have been decided by three points or less. U-M has lived on the edge at the end of games all season.  Don’t expect that to change in Iowa City.

Although their styles differ, Michigan and Iowa are very similar football teams.  Both teams have been mediocre in the Big Ten season.  Both teams lost to Michigan State, beat Minnesota, and beat Northwestern in overtime. Both teams are undefeated against FBS squads with non-winning records, but have struggled to beat FBS squads with winning records. Both teams rely on their defense—each of which is ranked in the top 20 in total defense—while their offenses try to find their footing.

Everything about this contest screams a competitive, low-scoring affair.  In these situations, favorable results tend to favor the home team. It does not help Michigan’s case that it has been putrid on the road in recent years. In true road games under Brady Hoke, U-M is 6-7 and has not won two straight. This season alone, U-M is 2-2 on the road, performing shakily in its two wins against teams with a combined 4-15 record.

Michigan’s defense will keep it competitive throughout, but U-M’s offense will determine which team will be victorious. Although U-M will put points on the board—setting a new NCAA record with its 362nd straight game without being shut out—it will struggle yet again. Plus, Iowa’s exceptional punt-return unit will be the one that finally exploits U-M’s sub-par coverage team, scoring a critical punt-return touchdown in the second half that becomes the game-deciding score.

Iowa 17 – Michigan 13
____________________________________________________________________________

Links:

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Iowa game preview; Monday’s First Look: Iowa, yesterday’s Friend vs Foe with RossWB of the Iowa SB Nation blog Black Heart Gold Pants, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. Derick detailed his trip to the Northwestern game and what he took away from it. Drew (@DrewCHallett) explained the all-time streak Michigan is likely to break tomorrow.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewTouch the BannerMaize n Blue Nation, and The M Block.

From the other side, game preview from BHGP.

Finally, former Wolverines Vincent Smith, Martavious Odoms, and Brandin Hawthorne still need your help raising money for their urban garden project for their hometown of Pahokee, Fla.

Michigan-Iowa game preview

Friday, November 22nd, 2013


After two straight losses Michigan got back on track with a thrilling triple-overtime win over Northwestern. Now, with a showdown against unbeaten rival Ohio State looming next weekend, Michigan looks to build momentum in Iowa City, a place the Wolverines haven’t won since 2005.

Iowa gained bowl eligibility with its 38-14 win over Purdue two weeks ago and will come into this matchup fresh off a bye week. With games against Michigan and Nebraska remaining, the Hawkeyes have a chance to exceed the low expectations they entered the season with after a 4-8 finish a year ago. Flipping those numbers would be quite the accomplishment for a squad that was projected to scrape the bottom of the Big Ten once again.

Quick Facts
Kinnick Stadium – 12pm EST – Big Ten Network
Iowa Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (15th season)
Coaching Record: 112-95 (100-74 at Iowa)
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Davis (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Parker (2nd season)
Last Season: 4-8 (2-4, 6th Legends)
Last Meeting: Michigan 42 – Iowa 17 (2012)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 41-13-4
Record in Iowa City: Michigan leads 16-6-1
Record at Kinnick Stadium: Michigan leads 15-6-1
Current Michigan Streak: Won 1
Last Michigan Win: 2012

In reality, Iowa has been better than its record indicates. The four losses have come against teams with a combined record of 38-3, and in three of those four the Hawkeyes were tied or held the lead in the fourth quarter. According to RossWB from the Iowa blog Black Heart Gold Pants, it has been the Iowa offense that has gotten stagnant late in games allowing opponents to come back. In fact, the Hawkeyes have been outscored 78-44 in the fourth quarter alone this season.

The last time Michigan won in Kinnick was when Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, and Jake Long still donned the maize and blue. The Wolverines lost 24-16 in 2011 and 30-28 in 2009 (they didn’t play in 2007).

Kinnick Stadium does hold claim to one notable Michigan performance. As Drew described in Wednesday’s Inside the Numbers, the last time Michigan was shut out was on Oct. 20, 1984 at Iowa. Since then, the Wolverines have gone 361 consecutive games without being shut out. Why is that important? Because if Michigan scores tomorrow it will set the all-time record that it currently holds with BYU. The Cougars’ streak that Michigan is currently tied with ended exactly ten years ago today.

Michigan defense vs Iowa offense: When Iowa has the ball

The Hawkeyes are piloted by sophomore Jake Rudock who has completed a hair under 60 percent of his passes for 1,916 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. He took over for James Vanderberg who played every snap a year ago, and while he hasn’t been outstanding by any means he has managed the offense well. The season opener against Northern Illinois was his best game of the season in terms of yards (256), but two interceptions put a damper on it. He also had a good game against Ohio State, throwing for 245 yards and three touchdowns. But Wisconsin held him to just 12-of-24 for 109 yards and an interception three weeks ago.

Rudock has a solid but by no means dominant receiving corps to throw to, led by Kevonte Martin-Manley. The 6’0″ junior leads the team with 35 receptions for 304 yards and four touchdowns. By comparison, Jeremy Gallon has 65 for 1,062 and Devin Funchess has 42 for 684. Jehu Chesson has two-thirds the amount of yards Martin-Manley has. His best game of the season was a nine-catch, 79-yard performance against NIU. Since then, he has averaged just 25 yards per game.

Jake Rudock threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State (Charlie Litchfield, The Register)

Junior Damond Powell is second on the team with 12 catches for 291 yards and two touchdowns. More than half of his yards came on three catches against Western Michigan and Minnesota. Sophomore Tevaun Smith is the other receiver that factors in. He has 19 receptions for 213 yards.

With Iowa you always have to talk about tight ends and this year is no different. The main guy is CJ Fiedorowicz, the 6’7″, 265-pound senior who leads the team with four touchdowns. He has caught at least one pass in every game and more than one pass in six of them. But he’s not the only one. Sophomore Jake Duzey has 15 catches for 207 yards and two scores. They certainly create mismatches for linebackers, and lately the Hawkeyes have been running some three-tight end looks.

In the backfield, Iowa has a pair of decent backs in juniors Mark Wesiman and Damon Bullock. Weisman ranks eighth in the Big Ten in rushing with 777 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Bullock has 455 yards on 4.2 yards per carry. Weisman’s numbers have tailed off over the last five games as Bullock has started to get more carries. In the first five games of the season, Weisman topped 100 yards four times. Since then, his best performance has been 56 yards on 13 carries against Northwestern.

The offensive line is a typical bruising Iowa group that returned three starters from a year ago. The line has allowed just nine sacks this season, fewer than one per game, which has no doubt aided in Rudock’s ability to run the offense.

Greg Davis’ offense isn’t one that relies on big plays. It’s going to run the ball, throw to the tight ends, and rely on screens, draws, and the like. It’s your typical Iowa offense that will likely have you screaming at somebody to cover Duzey or Fiedorowicz here and there, but won’t do anything too crazy, especially in the cold and windy weather they will surely face.

Michigan offense vs Iowa defense: When Michigan has the ball

The strength of the Iowa defense is its linebackers. Anthony Hitchens was honorable mention All-Big Ten last season and ranks fifth in the conference with 87 tackles, while Christian Kirksey and James Morris are tied for ninth. Three linebackers in the top nine is pretty darn good. The group had a combined 65 career starts heading into this season.

The line is young and coming on strong. Junior tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat started all 12 games last season, while Carl Davis served as a rotation player. End Drew Ott has 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks on the season, while Mike Hardy has started the last three games in place of Domonic Alvis who has been out with an injury.

Despite losing last season’s top corner, Micah Hyde, Phil Parker’s defense still ranks 12th nationally in passing yards allowed. The unit is led by BJ Lowery, a 5’11″ senior cornerback who ranks second in the Big Ten with 16 passes defended. Safety Tanner Miller is the team’s most experienced player in the secondary, having started 33 straight games.

James Morris has started 39 straight games for Iowa

Iowa’s defense ranks ninth nationally in total defense and 24th against the run. A smart and talented group of linebackers and a good secondary is not a good recipe for Michigan’s struggling offense. The Wolverines’ offensive line has given up 19 sacks in the last three games, and while Iowa has only gotten to the quarterback 17 times all season, the same could have been said about Nebraska’s defense heading into the game two weeks ago.

The other third: Special teams

Senior kicker Mike Meyer has made 14-of-18 field goals with a long of 49 yards. He was honorable mention All-Big Ten last season and has made 59-of-76 during his career. Sophomore punter Connor Kornbrath ranks ninth in the conference with a punt average of 40.1 yards. Perhaps the most dangerous part of the Hawkeyes is Martin-Manley’s ability to return punts. He leads the Big Ten with an average of 18.8 yards per return on 14 returns and has taken two back for touchdown.

Prediction

The forecast on Saturday calls for a high of 23 degrees with 18 miles per hour wind and a real feel of 10 degrees. Those conditions won’t be conducive to passing, so it will be up to Michigan’s running game to move the ball. Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith looked good last week in the absence of Fitzgerald Toussaint. Brady Hoke says Toussaint will be back this week, but it remains to be seen whether the freshmen will get as many carries.

The bad news is Iowa has very good linebackers and one of the nation’s best defenses. We saw how that went against Michigan State, and while this won’t be a replay of that, Michigan isn’t likely to be able to move the ball with much consistency.

Expect a low scoring, classic Big Ten game with neither offense able to get much going. Whichever offense makes the most mistakes will lose. Michigan was fortunate last week that Northwestern dropped several interceptions and if Iowa is able to capitalize on those mistakes it will seal Michigan’s fate.

Michigan struggles on the road and the conditions aren’t suited to the Wolverines’ play right now. Hopefully they’ll be able to keep the momentum going for next week, but I don’t like their chances.

Iowa 16 – Michigan 13

Friend vs Foe: Iowa

Thursday, November 21st, 2013


For this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe we welcome RossWB from one of our favorite fellow Big Ten team sites, the Iowa SB Nation blog Black Heart Gold Pants. He answers questions about Iowa’s late-game struggles, Michigan’s chances of running the ball, Iowa’s passing game, and where the advantages lie. He also gives his prediction. You can follow Ross on Twitter at @RossWB and the site’s main feed at @BHGP.

1. Iowa had fourth quarter leads or ties in losses to NIU, Michigan State, and Ohio State, but they’ve been outscored 78-44 in the fourth quarter. What has gone wrong late in games this season?

I think the biggest late-game problem for Iowa has been their offense.  It’s been pretty weak in the third and fourth quarters this year, especially in Big Ten play (the Purdue game notwithstanding… and all stats from games against Purdue this year should probably carry a caveat).  Iowa has really struggled to sustain drives and (more importantly) score points at the end of games this season, which is a bit of a problem when you’re tied or chasing a lead.  So Iowa’s best bet is definitely to build a big early lead and then hang on; if it’s a close game in the fourth quarter, I think it’s safe to say that Iowa fans are going to be very nervous.

2. Michigan’s lack of a running game the past few weeks (really all season, but especially the past few weeks) is no secret. Iowa ranks 24th against the run. Ohio State and Northwestern all had – and NIU to some extent – had success on the ground with mobile quarterbacks. Does Michigan have any hope running the ball this week?

There’s something there, for sure, especially with the running quarterbacks — sometimes Iowa does alright (they held Northern Illinois to 163 yards and Lynch to just 56 yards) and sometimes they don’t (Miller torched Iowa for 102 yards on the ground by himself).  But at the same time Michigan is ranked 98th in running the ball and that offensive line has been unable to get much of a push at all for the better part of the last three weeks — I think Iowa has a pretty shot at keeping Michigan’s ground game in check on Saturday.  I’m definitely more worried about Devin Gardner’s scrambles than I am seeing Michigan line up and run Fitzgerald Touissant (or whichever running back is healthy) between the tackles, though.

3. Tell me about the Iowa passing game. For those who haven’t watched Iowa play this season, is Jake Rudock a playmaker or more of a game manager? Michigan’s DBs like to play soft coverage to prevent big plays…can he make big throws or is he more of a dink and dunker? And for the love of God, please tell me all of Iowa’s tight ends are injured this week…

CJ Fiedorowicz leads a talented group of Iowa tight ends (IU Athletic Communications)

Game manager is probably a more accurate description of his play than playmaker.  He’s a deceptively good runner, but he’s certainly no Johnny Manziel or Marcus Mariota in the pocket — he’s no threat to break off a 50-yard run.  (He’s even less of a running threat after sustaining a knee injury against Wisconsin a few weeks ago, although that injury is not expected to keep him out of the game this weekend.)  As a passer, Rudock’s best attribute is probably his poise; he doesn’t let bad plays faze him.  He doesn’t have the most powerful arm, his accuracy has suffered in league play (which is why his completion percentage has dipped to 59.9%), and he’s thrown a few too many costly interceptions (9 so far, including several in the fourth quarter).  But he has a calm presence in the pocket and he’s capable of leading some very impressive scoring drives.  Consistency is his biggest issue, which is not too surprising for a first-year starter.

In terms of tight ends, I believe Iowa will have a full contingent of them available for this weekend.  Iowa’s top tight end, C.J. Fiedorowicz left the Purdue game a few weeks ago due to concussion-like symptoms, but he appears to have a clean bill of health now.  CJF caught touchdowns in three straight games earlier in Big Ten play and he’s grabbed at least one pass in every game this year.  Ray Hamilton and Jake Duzey are the tight ends behind Fiedorowicz on the depth chart, but they see quite a bit of action themselves (Iowa has even been running some 3-TE sets over the last month or so) and are both very capable pass-catchers.  Iowa’s tight ends are the most consistent part of their passing game (other than top WR Kevonte Martin-Manley), so I’d definitely expect to see them be involved quite a bit on Saturday.

4. Where do you see Iowa having an outright advantage over Michigan this weekend, and why? Are there any areas that you think Michigan has the edge?

This is a tricky question because in a lot of ways, it seems like Iowa’s strengths will be matched up against Michigan’s strengths.  Iowa’s strength on offense all year has been their offensive line and running game; unfortunately, it seems like Michigan’s front seven has been pretty solid this year (the Wolverines are 13th in the nation against the run, after all).  I think the biggest edge for Iowa may be their tight ends.  Iowa has a lot of good tight ends (C.J. Fiedorowicz, Jake Duzey, and Ray Hamilton will all see a lot of action) and they gave Ohio State some problems with their 3-TE formations; I think they’d be wise to try and attack Michigan the same way and try to open things up for their running game.

I think the biggest edge for Michigan might be in attacking Iowa deep; Iowa’s safety play has been pretty inconsistent this season and they’ve given up a lot of big plays through the air.  If I was Michigan, I’d send a few deep passes at Funchess and Gallon to try and exploit that weakness.  Other than that, the biggest advantage for Michigan is probably Devin Gardner’s scrambling ability; Iowa’s defensive ends sometimes struggle to keep contain if a QB is able to keep a play alive for several seconds (I still have nightmares of Braxton Miller turning the corner and hitting the afterburners).

5. What’s your prediction and how will it happen?

As recently as a few weeks ago, I didn’t hold out much hope for Iowa getting a result in this game.  But then Iowa showed promise against Wisconsin (on defense, at least) and a lot more competence against Purdue (competition caveats apply, of course).  After those games it was a lot easier to chalk up Iowa’s losses against Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin as the result of playing the Big Ten’s three best teams  in a five-week span.  No offense to the Wolverines, but they don’t seem to be on par with those teams right now.  After their bye week earlier this season, Iowa had one of their sharpest first half offensive performances of the season (against Ohio State); I think they come out clicking again on Saturday and this time they’re able to hold on in the second half.  IOWA 24, MICHIGAN 16

To me this game comes down to whether Michigan’s offensive line can open holes and protect Devin Gardner. Iowa’s offense is a low scoring, run-based offense that Michigan should be able to contain and hold under 20 points. The Iowa defense, however, poses some issues for a Michigan team that has not only struggled to move the ball lately but has been downright awful on the road the past three years.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like our chances in Iowa City but there is a reason the game isn’t played on paper. Let’s move on and take a look at what Michigan needs to do to come away with a road win.

On Offense:

Last game we saw some glimpses of decent offensive line play, so assuming that carries forward and they can at least be serviceable let’s look at the rest of the offense.

After Derrick Green's solid game last week he should see more time against Iowa (MGoBlue.com)

Move the ball on first and second, avoiding third downs as much as possible. Michigan has been just awful on third downs this season, some of it is physical but a lot is probably mental as well. Last week against Northwestern they moved the ball quite a bit (when they did move it that is) on first and second down. If they can get 5-6 yards on first and second downs then they won’t get caught in the dreaded third down on the road situation. How they can do this is beyond me, I just know they need to avoid third downs as much as possible.

Stick with what is working, not what you think might work. What I mean by this is exactly what it says. Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith were having success running the ball, but then they stopped and started passing it because the wind was at their back and Borges wanted to see if they could pass it. Don’t do that anymore. If the run game is working, keep running until they stop you. If the pass game is going then keep with it. A balanced offense is nice but if you can run down their throats all day (as Wisconsin once did to us under RichRod) then why would you try to do something else?

Keep the game manageable until the fourth quarter. Iowa hasn’t been all that good in the fourth quarter so assuming that trend continues as long as Michigan can keep it close through the first three they should be in good shape for the final stanza.

Take advantage of good field position. As soon as Northwestern shanked the punt and set us up at the 10 I turned to my brother and said ‘no way they get six, lets just hope for at least three and not a turnover.’ This is Michigan, act like it and put the ball in the dang endzone when you are in the redzone, period. If we see more wasted opportunities I fear the football gods won’t be as kind to us in Iowa CIty as they were in Evanston.

Forget the past. Michigan hasn’t been very good away from The Big House in Brady Hoke’s tenure. Championship teams do win at home, but they also win on the road in hostile environments. The pink of Iowa’s visiting locker room doesn’t exactly scream ‘scary’ but Iowa City is a tough place to play. If they can just go out and not let the crowd intimidate them and not think about their past struggles on the road it will go a long way to strengthening their confidence.

On Defense:

Stop the run. Mark Weisman is a bruiser and has some speed but he won’t be winning any 100 meter races any time soon. While Iowa does pass the ball they are a run focused team. Stop the run and play coverage. I say play coverage because Michigan has yet to show me a legitimate pass rush and Iowa has only allowd 9 sacks in ten games. Michigan has given up more than twice that in the past three games alone. If Michigan focuses on stopping the run but still playing good coverage to keep everything in front of them they should be in good shape.

Get third down stops and force them to punt. This should be basic and a given but this team has been anything but consistent all year so I feel it deserves mention. Get the defense off the field and get Gardner the ball as much as possible.

Don’t give up the big play. Again this has been an issue for Michigan. One or two big plays can lead to scores and ultimately determine the outcome. Likewise, one or two big stops can keep Michigan in the game, if the offense is stagnant, or seal it if the offense is clicking on all cylinders.

Keep it manageable until the fourth quarter and let Iowa give it away as they so often do.

On Special Teams:

Just keep doing what you’re doing. Special teams has been rather pleasant to watch, as far as punting and kicking field goals can be deemed exciting. Win the field position game and Michigan will help put itself into good situations.

Prediction: This team has struggled too much on the road for me to be comfortable heading in. Couple that with a lackluster offensive line and a good front seven for Iowa and I just don’t see Michigan coming out of there with a win.

First Look: Iowa

Monday, November 18th, 2013


Michigan got back in the win column with a triple-overtime thriller over Northwestern on Saturday and now has to hit the road for a second straight week, this time to Iowa. Like this past Saturday’s game, neither team has a chance at a conference or division title at this point and both are playing simply to improve their final standing and bowl placement.

Iowa comes in at 6-4 overall and is tied with Michigan at 3-3 in the Legends Division. Like Michigan, the Hawkeyes enter this week’s matchup having lost three of their last five. But Kirk Ferentz’s squad has been better than most forecasted entering the season. The three losses in the last five weeks have been expected – to Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin – and the other loss was the season opener to Northern Illinois, which is currently undefeated and ranked 16th nationally.

Other than the 28-9 loss to Wisconsin, Iowa has played each opponent tough. Iowa led NIU 27-20, but the Huskies scored 10 points in the final five minutes and won with a 38-yard field goal with four seconds remaining. Against Michigan State, the Hawkeyes held a 14-10 halftime lead, and trailed just 20-14 at the start of the fourth before falling 26-14. Against Ohio State, Iowa led 17-10 at halftime and the game was tied at 24 heading into the fourth.

If there has been a theme it is fourth quarter letdowns. For the season, Iowa has been outscored by opponents 78-44 in the fourth quarter alone and the third quarter is a 55-55 tie. The Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents 160-54 in the first half.

Iowa Statistics & Michigan Comparison
IowaMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 26.6 | 34.3 79 | 39 18.7 | 25.2 12 | T-51
Rushing Yards 1,9391,357 1,300 | 1,112
Rush Avg. Per Game 193.9 | 135.7 42 | 95 130.0 | 101.2 24 | 13
Avg. Per Rush 4.5 | 3.2 3.7 | 3.2
Passing Yards 2,0402,476 1,892 | 2,364
Pass Avg. Per Game 204.0247.6 88 | 52 189.2 | 236.4 12 | 75
Total Offense 3,9793,833 3,192 | 3,476
Total Off Avg. Per Game 397.9 | 383.3 71 | 83 319.2 | 347.6 9 | 19
Kick Return Average 18.6 | 22.9 106 | 39 24.3 | 21.9 107 | 74
Punt Return Average 16.9 | 6.6 3 | 82 5.1 | 7.4 26 | 57
Avg. Time of Possession 31:4032:11 31 | 22 28:20 | 27:49
3rd Down Conversion Pct 47% | 38% 24 | 74 36% | 39% 37 | 67
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 9-36 | 31-230 T9 | T113 17-64 | 20-155 T81 | T61
Touchdowns Scored 32 | 42 22 | 27
Field Goals-Attempts 14-18 | 16-23 11-13 | 22-27
Red Zone Scores (31-40)77% | (36-43)84% 94 | T56 (17-20)85% | (30-34)88% 80 | 97
Red Zone Touchdowns (20-40)50% | (26-43)60% (9-20)45% | (17-34)50%

The main thing that stands out from Iowa’s stats this season is the defense, which ranks ninth nationally in total defense, 12th in scoring defense, 12th against the pass, and 24th against the run. The Hawkeyes held Ohio State to 34 points, the Buckeyes’ second-lowest total of the season, and 15 points below their season average. In addition, the 30 points Iowa allowed to Northern Illinois were their second lowest total of the season and nearly 15 points below their season average.

Kevonte Martin-Manley has returned two punts for touchdowns this season (Denny Medley, US Presswire)

That doesn’t bode well for a Michigan offense struggling to move the ball and score points. Prior to overtime against Northwestern, Michigan’s offense had scored just one touchdown in three full games. The Wolverines managed to score two in the three overtime stanzas, but Iowa’s defense will be a much tougher test than Nebraska and Northwestern’s were the past two weeks.

Offensively, Iowa is rather pedestrian. The Hawkeyes rank second to last in the Big Ten in points per game (26.6), ahead of only lowly Purdue. They have scored more than 30 points just twice all season, in a 59-3 win over Western Michigan and a 38-14 win over Purdue. Otherwise, the Hawkeyes have been pretty consistently in the mid-20s all season.

Iowa ranks seventh in the conference in total offense, slightly ahead of Michigan, averaging about 15 more total yards more than Michigan per game. The Hawkeyes rank fifth with 194.4 rushing yards per game and seventh with 204 passing yards per game. Michigan currently ranks 11th and fourth, respectively. When it comes to pass efficiency, Iowa is ahead of only Michigan State and Purdue.

One insane stat is the pass protection that Iowa’s offensive line has given quarterback Jake Rudock. He has been sacked just nine times through ten games this season, which is tied with Michigan State for the fewest in the Big Ten and ranks ninth nationally. By comparison, Michigan has given up 19 sacks in just the past three games. The good news for Michigan is that Iowa’s defense has gotten to the opposing quarterback just 17 times all season – three fewer than Michigan.

Perhaps the best stat for the Hawkeyes is the punt return average for receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. On 14 returns, he is averaging 18.8 yards, which is more than twice as many as the second-best in the Big Ten. It’s also good for third best nationally. Kick returns are a different story, however, as Iowa averages a Big Ten-worst 18.6 yards per return.

It is sure to be a hostile environment as it always is in Kinnick Stadium. Iowa needs a win to assure itself a winning season. Michigan needs a win to carry over the momentum from its overtime win over Northwestern into next week’s showdown with Ohio State.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Rating
Jake Rudock 167-279 1,916 14 9 127.6
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Avg/Carry
Mark Weisman 167 777 4 37 4.7
Damon Bullock 108 455 1 22 4.2
Jordan Canzeri 49 338 2 43 6.9
Jake Rudock (QB) 49 188 5 31 3.8
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Avg/Game
Kevonte Martin-Manley 35 304 3 22 33.8
Damond Powell 12 291 2 74 32.3
Tevaun Smith 19 213 0 36 21.3
CJ Fiedorowicz (TE) 20 188 4 18 18.8
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Anthony Hitchens (LB) 37 50 87 10.0-16 2.0-3
James Morris (LB) 19 42 81 10.0-34 (3INT) 5.0-22 (1FR)
Drew Ott (DE) 18 25 43 6.5-11 2.5-5
BJ Lowery (DB) 32 18 50 1.0-2 (3INT) 0-0 (13PBU)
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Mike Meyer 18 14 49 31 31
Punting Punts Yds Avg. TB In 20
Connor Kornbrath 47 1,884 40.1 2 21
Full Stats

2013 opponent preview: Iowa

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013


The fifth installment of our opponent preview series features who we believe will be the fifth easiest – or eighth toughest – opponent on the schedule, the Iowa Hawkeyes. It’s unusual for a traditional conference power like Iowa to rank so low in terms of difficulty – especially with the likes of Indiana, Minnesota and UConn on the schedule – but this is going to be another rough year for the Hawkeyes. Let’s take a closer look.

Greg Davis

Overview

The Big Ten’s elder statesman, Kirk Ferentz, enters the 2013 season with a hotter seat than he’s used to. His Hawkeyes have gone downhill each of the last four seasons, from 11-2 in 2009 to 8-5 in 2010 to 7-6 in 2011 to just 4-8 a year ago, the latter being the worst record since his second season in Iowa City.

Prior to last season, he replaced both coordinators, brining in Greg Davis to run the offense and promoting Phil Parker to guide the defense. This offseason, Ferentz brought in former Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid as a defensive assistant and former Colorado wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy to coach receivers. Ferentz hopes the changes can save his job.

Offense

The first order of business will be finding a replacement at quarterback for James Vendenberg, who played every down last season. The frontrunner is sophomore Jake Rudock, though he wasn’t able to create any separation in the spring. Junior college transfer Cody Sokol and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard are also in the running.

The good news is that whoever wins the job will have a pair of experienced backs to hand the ball off to. Juniors Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock are back after rushing for 815 yards and eight touchdowns and 513 yards and three touchdowns, respectively, last season. Weisman recorded four straight 100-yard games, including a 217-yard performance against Central Michigan, before an ankle injury caused him to miss a couple of games.

On the edge, two of the top three pass catchers return, led by junior Kevonte Martin-Maley who caught 52 passes for 571 yards and two touchdowns last season. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz was the team’s third-leading receiver with 45 catches for 433 yards, but only one touchdown. Look for him to be a good crutch for the new signal caller.

The offensive line returns four players with significant starting experience, including bookends Brandon Scherff and Brett Van Sloten. Scherff missed some time with a broken leg last season, but is fully recovered and ready to anchor the line. Austin Blythe, who started nine games at right guards last season, slides over to center.

Defense

Six starters return in the back seven, though the one that is gone, cornerback Micah Hyde, was the best of the bunch. His replacement will be sophomore Jordan Lomax, who played in 11 games in 2011, but redshirted last season after suffering a shoulder injury. Opposite Lomax is B.J. Lowery, while the experienced Tanner Miller mans the free safety spot and the hard-hitting Nico Law is back at strong safety.

Schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 31 Northern Illinois
Sept. 7 Missouri State
Sept. 14 @ Iowa State
Sept. 21 Western Michigan
Sept. 28 @ Minnesota
Oct. 5 Michigan State
Oct. 19 @ Ohio State
Oct. 26 Northwestern
Nov. 2 Wisconsin
Nov. 9 @ Purdue
Nov. 23 Michigan
Nov. 29 @ Nebraska

All three linebackers – Christian Kirksey, James Morris, and Anthony Hitchens – return for their senior seasons with a combined 65 starts. Morris led the team with 113 tackles, while Kirksey led the conference with four fumble recoveries.

Ferentz needs playmakers to step up along the line and the most likely candidate is end Dominic Alvis. The only other returning starter is tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat. Carl Davis and Darian Cooper will rotate through the other tackle spot, while sophomore Drew Ott should man the other end.

Special Teams

Both kicker Mike Meyer and punter Connor Kornbrath return. Meyer connected on 17 of 21 field goal attempts a year ago, while Kornbrath ranked ninth in the Big Ten with an average of 37.9 yards per punt. Senior Jordan Cotton led the conference with a 28.2 kick return average in 2012 and took one 92 yards for a touchdown.

Outlook

The good news for Iowa is that the offense was so bad last year, there’s nowhere to go but up. It really all depends on the quarterback and finding a balance between Ferentz’s preferred smash-mouth running game and Davis’ spread passing attack. But it’s safe to say these Hawkeyes won’t challenge for the Big Ten title this season.

What it means for Michigan

There are three reasons why Iowa isn’t ranked lower on the list of toughest opponents. First, the game is in Iowa City in late November where the weather is always unpredictable. It could very well be cold and windy or snowing which could negate Michigan’s talent and speed advantages. Secondly, it falls right after a tough three-week stretch of games at Michigan State, home against Nebraska and at Northwestern. The Wolverines will need a breather after those three, but to make matters worse, Ohio State looms the next week, so Michigan can’t afford to overlook the Hawkeyes. Finally, Iowa may very well be clawing for its postseason life. After going 4-8 last season, a two-game improvement is certainly within reach, but the Hawkeyes will likely need to win one of the last two against Michigan or Nebraska. With Michigan at home, it’s the most likely, so Iowa will be playing with nothing to lose.

The good thing is Hoke has shown he is capable of keeping his teams focused, so don’t expect Michigan to overlook Iowa. It’s late enough in the season that both sides of the ball will be solidified, barring injuries, and Michigan will be by far the better team. The biggest question mark is the great equalizer – the weather. Regardless, Michigan should win, but it may be closer than most expect.

Michigan vs Iowa game preview

Friday, November 16th, 2012


The final home game of the season is upon us and Michigan will be looking to send its seniors off in style with a win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. At this point, the Hawkweys hold the longest winning streak of any opponent over Michigan – three games – and Brady Hoke would love to end that just as he did to the streaks Ohio State and Michigan State had accumulated.

For the third straight week, uncertainty surrounds the quarterback position as Denard Robinson has yet to be publicly cleared to play. Devin Gardner has filled in nicely the past two weeks and will likely be tasked to do the same tomorrow. Michigan remains in contention for the Big Ten Legends division title and a spot in the championship game, but must win out.

Michigan Stadium  -  Ann Arbor, Mich.
12pm EST  -  ESPN
______________

Iowa Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (14th season)
Coaching Record: 100-72 (112-93 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Davis
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Parker
Returning Starters: 8 (5 offense, 3 defense)
Last Season: 7-6 (4-4)
Last Meeting: Iowa 24 – Michigan 16 (2011)
All-time Series: Michigan leads 40-13-4
In Ann Arbor: Michigan leads 23-6-3
In Michigan Stadium: 22-5-3
Current Streak: Iowa 3

Iowa should provide a nice tune-up for the epic showdown that looms in Columbus a week from tomorrow. The Hawkeyes come in needing a win to stay alive for bowl contention. At 4-6, Iowa must win its last two to get a bowl bid. Iowa’s four wins were over Northern Illinois (18-17), Northern Iowa (27-16), Minnesota (31-13), and Michigan State (19-16 OT). The Hawkeyes lost to Iowa State (9-6), Central Michigan (32-31), Penn State (38-14), Northwestern (28-17), Indiana (24-21), and Purdue (27-24). The latter four of those losses have come consecutively in the last four weeks following the overtime victory over MSU. Can Iowa somehow rekindle the magic it found in East Lansing? Or will Michigan ensure the ‘Hawks will be home for the holidays? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Iowa has the ball

As I explained in Monday’s First Look, Iowa’s offense has been downright anemic this season under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis. The man who coordinated Texas’ offense for 13 seasons hasn’t been able to get things going, but he also doesn’t have Vince Young at his disposal.

James Vandenberg is a competent quarterback, but doesn’t have much to throw to due to the departure of Marvin McNutt. Vandenberg has completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 1,976 yards, five touchdowns, and six interceptions. He hasn’t thrown for 250 yards in a game all season and hasn’t thrown multiple touchdowns in a single game either. Penn State held him to just 47.2 percent completions for 189 yards, a touchdown, and two picks and his numbers against Iowa State, Michigan State, and Purdue were similar.

As mentioned above, he lacks top-notch receivers like he had with McNutt. The leaders are Kennan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley who have 46 catches for 560 yards and 47 catches for 545 yards, respectively. But only Martin-Manley has multiple touchdown grabs (two). Mammoth tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz 31 receptions for 278 yards and a touchdown. The main issue has been big plays. The entire offense has just 14 plays of 25 yards or more this season. McNutt had 15 by himself a year ago.

James Vandenberg led the Big Ten in passing last season, but has just five TDs in 2012

In the backfield, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God has struck again. The leading rusher, Mark Weisman, had four straight 100-yard games, including a 217-yard performance against Central Michigan and 116 yards against Michigan State. But he left the Northwestern game with an ankle injury and has missed the last two games. He’s likely out this week as well. In his stead, sophomore Damon Bullock has been up and down. He rushed for 107 yards against Northwestern and 150 in the season opener, but has averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the last two weeks. Purdue, who Michigan shredded for 304 yards rushing, held him to just 43 yards on 23 carries.

Davis’ offense is of the pro-style variety and calls for a zone running scheme and an underneath passing game. The offensive line has been through its share of injuries this season and has been a major factor in the lack of a run game. The lack of a true deep threat like McNutt has caused the underneath routes to be less effective. Expect Greg Mattison to unleash a blitz scheme designed to pressure Vandenberg into making quick decisions.

When Michigan has the ball

Like the offense, Iowa’s defense is guided by a new coordinator this season. Phil Parker has a solid group of linebackers but not much else. Despite the new coordinator it’s essentially the same defensive style as what Norm Parker ran, as Phil Parker was the team’s defensive backs coach for the previous 13 seasons.

While the Hawkeyes rank 29th nationally in points allowed, the total defense is a mediocre 51st. Each of the last four opponents have racked up over 400 yards of offense, and Penn State surpassed 500.

Junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens is the Big Ten’s leading tackler by a wide margin with 114, while James Morris ranks third and Christian Kirksey ranks 12th. Each of the three has more tackles than Michigan’s leading tackler, Desmond Morgan and they’re all solid linebackers.

The rest of the defense, not so much. Tackle Joe Gaglione has five sacks and nine tackles for loss, but no one else on the team has more than two sacks. The line has trouble getting pressure on the quarterback, ranking 111th nationally with just 11 sacks in 10 games.

The secondary has a pair of experienced corners in Micah Hyde and B.J. Lowery. Hyde is the team’s fourth leading tackler with 67, has a pair of fumble recoveries, and ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 12 pass breakups. The three-year starter doesn’t get beat often. Lowery, you might remember for knocking down Michigan’s final pass in the end zone last year, thwarting the comeback attempt.

The 4-3 defense employed by Parker isn’t overly aggressive and prefers to sit back and let the play come to it. The last four opponents have scored just an average of just over 29 points per game, and there’s no reason to think Michigan won’t do otherwise.

Rushing Attempts: 12 – Denard will pass Tyrone Wheatley for 6th in career rushing attempts.
Rushing Yards: 4 – Denard will pass Tyrone Wheatley for 4th in career rushing yards. With 115, he could pass Missouri’s Brad Smith (2002-05) for 2nd in NCAA FBS history. With 219, he could pass Jamie Morris for 3rd in Michigan history.
Rushing Touchdowns: 1 – Denard will pass Mike Hart for 3rd in career rushing touchdowns.
100 rushing yards: Denard will pass Jamie Morris for 4th in career 100-yard rushing games.
Pass Completions: 17 – Denard will pass Tom Brady for 5th in career completions.
Pass Yards: 211 – Denard will pass Elvis Grbac for 3rd in career passing yards.
Total Yards: 170 – Denard will pass Illinois’ Juice Williams (2006-09) for 6th in career total yards in Big Ten history.
Field Goals: 1 – Brendan Gibbons will pass Bob Bergeron for 6th in career field goals made. With 2 he will tie Ali Haji-Sheikh for 5th.

The other third

Kicker Mike Meyer has converted 16-of-19 field goals on the season with a long of 50. He made 14-of-20 last season and 14-of-17 in 2010 for a career average of 78.6. Punter Connor Kornbrath has an average of 37.4, which ranks 10th in the conference. Former Michigan quarterback commit John Wienke has also punted a dozen times with similar results.

The return game is below average, although Jordan Cotton leads the Big Ten with a 27.9-yard kick return average with one touchdown. Hyde handles punt return duties with an average of 5.4 yards per return. The Hawkeyes do defend returns pretty well, ranking 31st and 27th nationally in kick and punt return coverage, respectively.

Prediction

The biggest danger for Michigan in this one is overlooking the Hawkeyes for next week’s battle in Columbus. But a couple of factors exist that won’t allow that to happen. First of all, it’s Senior Day, so Denard, Jordan Kovacs, et al. will want to go off in style. Secondly, Michigan has the nation’s second longest home winning streak and hasn’t lost in the Big House since Hoke took over. Finally, Iowa has won the last three meetings and you can bet Hoke won’t let the team overlook that fact. Michigan will come to battle Iowa as if the Hawkeyes were the Buckeyes.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Denard didn’t play much. Michigan can win this one without him and needs him fully healthy for Ohio State, a possible Big Ten championship game, and the bowl game. There’s no use in letting him re-aggravate the elbow in this one. That being said, it is his final game in Michigan Stadium, so he may start and play a series or see a few plays here and there, but don’t expect him to play the full game.

With Gardner at quarterback, Michigan’s offense will look like it has the past two weeks. Fitz Toussaint and Thomas Rawls will split time in the backfield, although Vincent Smith will likely get some time as well since he’s a senior. Gardner will have another big day throwing and Michigan will cruise to a win, setting up the big one next Saturday.

Michigan 35 – Iowa 17

2012 Opponent Preview: Iowa

Monday, July 16th, 2012


Continuing our 2012 preseason opponent preview series, the fifth easiest (or eighth toughest) game of the upcoming season is the second to last opponent of the season, the Iowa Hawkeyes. In the past few weeks, we have previewed, in order of easiest to not-so-easiest, UMass, Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern.

Overview

It’s not often that a head coach replaces both coordinators in one offseason, but when you’re the elder statesman of the Big Ten and you’ve had two straight lackluster seasons, sometimes change is due. Kirk Ferentz, now in his 14th season at Iowa, let go of longtime offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe and defensive coordinator Norm Parker. He replaced Parker with defensive backs coach Phil Parker (no relation), but he went outside the program for new offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

Davis was the man who guided Texas to a national championship in 2006 and called plays for Vince Young and Colt McCoy. From 2003 to 2009, his offenses finished no worse than 14th nationally in scoring and scored at least 35.2 points per game each season. How much of that was Davis and how much of that was Young and McCoy is debatable. Without the two, his offense scored just 23.8 points per game and the Longhorns limped to a 5-7 record in 2010.

Offense

James Vandenberg will be one of the better QBs in the Big Ten, but needs a running game to step up

Davis inherits an offense that was middle of the pack in the Big Ten last season, but he does have a talented signal caller to work with. Senior James Vandenberg returns for his second year as a starter after throwing for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. His yards per game average was third in the conference behind Dan Persa and Kirk Cousins and his touchdowns were second only to Russell Wilson’s 33.

He’ll have to find a new top receiver to throw to as Marvin McNutt is off to the NFL. Senior Keenan Davis caught 50 passes last season and is the logical choice, but he struggled in spring ball, leaving the door open for others. Sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley impressed last season, catching 30 passes and three touchdowns as a freshman, and could step into a leading role. Another guy to watch for is tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. He’s 6’7” and 265 pounds with good hands and is tough to bring down. He caught just 16 passes last season, but most came in the last few games in which he caught touchdown passes in three of the final four games.

It seems to be a yearly refrain, but the position that has been the most ravaged for the Hawkeyes is running back. Last season’s leading rusher, and the Big Ten’s second-leading rusher, Marcus Coker, transferred to Stony Brook amid legal troubles. To make matters worse, his likely replacement, Jordan Canzeri, tore his ACL in March and Mika’il McCall transferred as well. Sophomore De’Andre Johnson is next in line, but he struggled holding onto the ball in the spring. Fellow sophomore Damon Bullock showed good speed in the spring and will factor in, while a pair of freshman, Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill, will get a chance to show what they can do in the fall.

The offensive line is a typical Iowa line despite having to replace three starters. Iowa churns out big uglies as well as any school in the Big Ten and has plenty of talent waiting in the wings. Redshirt freshman Austin Blythe looked good in the spring and will try to work his way into the lineup in fall camp. The Hawkeyes have eight or nine battling it out for the starting five, which won’t be decided until the start of the season.

Defense

While the offense will likely take some time to adjust to the new schemes, defense will be the Hawks’ calling card. Yes, a new defensive coordinator is in place, but he came from within, so don’t expect a drop off in production.

Let’s start with the question mark: the defensive line. It’s a young group aside from end Joe Gaglione, who had a strong spring, and tackle Steve Bigach. Parker will need some young guys such as Darian Cooper, Riley McMinn, and Carl Davis to step up, though Davis missed spring practice with a knee injury. Defensive end Dominic Alvis is likely to earn a starting spot if he can return healthy from a torn ACL.

Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Northern Illinois
Sept. 8 Iowa State
Sept. 15 Northern Iowa
Sept. 22 Central Michigan
Sept. 29 Minnesota
Oct. 13 @ Michigan State
Oct. 20 Penn State
Oct. 27 @ Northwestern
Nov. 3 @ Indiana
Nov. 10 Purdue
Nov. 17 @ Michigan
Nov. 24 Nebraska

The back seven will be solid. James Morris, Christian Kirksey, and Anthony Hitchens all return at the linebacker spots, though if any of them go down, there’s not much depth. Micah Hyde is a solid playmaker at corner, but the Hawkeyes are still looking for his counterpart. B.J. Lowery looks to be that guy, but Greg Castillo, who has started a few games, is right there as well. At safety, Nico Law and Tanner Miller are the starters. Law is a big hitter who impressed in the spring game. Parker promises to blitz more and play more press coverage than Iowa has in recent year, so look for the back seven to carry the Hawkeyes defense, but the performance of the line will tell the tale of the season.

Special Teams

Kicker Mike Meyer is back after hitting 14 of 20 last season, while Iowa needs to find a new punter. Former quarterback John Wienke looks to be the guy, however, Jonny Mullings may end up the starter when all is said and done. Hyde retakes the punt return duties after averaging 8.2 yards per return last season and Davis will again handle kick return duties.

Outlook

With so many questions at the sills positions offensively, Iowa will need its defense to be dominant. Vandenberg will be one of the top quarterbacks in the conference, but how quickly he grasps the new offense, and how well the running backs step up, will be the stories to watch early in the season. Fortunately, the non-conference schedule looks like four wins and the Hawks skip Wisconsin and Ohio State. If Ferentz doesn’t win at least eight or nine games it will be another disappointing season in Iowa City.

What it means for Michigan

Lost amid the focus of Michigan’s losing streak to Michigan State and the exuberance of ending the losing streak to Ohio State is a three-game losing streak to Iowa. The only reason it isn’t four is because the two didn’t play in 2008. This year, the game falls very late in the season, right after Minnesota and Northwestern and right before the big showdown in Columbus. Will Michigan be looking ahead? Don’t count on it. This should be the year the losing streak ends