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Posts Tagged ‘Kirk Ferentz’

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

The Reinvention of Michigan Football: A Matter of Perspective

Monday, August 10th, 2009


It seems that the popular thing to do these days among college football fans is to rip on Rich Rodriguez and the recent struggles of the University of Michigan football program.

For the better part of 40 years, Michigan was a symbol of stability, consistency and excellence.

Since Bo Schembechler was hired in 1969, only three coaches have graced the Michigan sidelines prior to Rodriguez’ arrival last season.

*Photo taken from ThrowForBo.com

*Photo taken from ThrowForBo.com

Those three, Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr, followed the same model of football—a punishing running game, an efficient passing game and a strong defense—to amass an overall winning percentage of 76.8, including 80.9 percent in the Big Ten conference. Throw in 21 Big Ten championships, 35 straight bowl games and a National Championship, and one can see why opposing fans are so quick to pile it on after one bad season.

Rodriguez came to Ann Arbor amidst a firestorm following Carr’s retirement in 2008 and Michigan fans and alumni were torn. Most had wanted former Wolverine offensive lineman and assistant coach, and current LSU head coach, Les Miles to replace Carr. Others wanted Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano or someone promoted from internally. A few wanted Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. All of those candidates seemed to fit the mold of the previous 40 years.

Yet it was Rodriguez who landed in Ann Arbor, spurning his alma mater, West Virginia University, and bringing with him an offense as unfamiliar to Michigan football as staying home for the holidays.

Some of the Michigan fan base was skeptical of an outsider with a wacky offense inheriting its most coveted throne. “What about our tradition?” they asked. “He’s not a Michigan man,” they cried.

When five-star sophomore-to-be quarterback Ryan Mallett transferred to Arkansas and offensive lineman Justin Boren transferred to Ohio State citing an “erosion of family values,” the mob grew louder.

Then came the season. Losses to Utah, Toledo, Purdue and Northwestern, as well as all three rivals resulted in the worst season in 46 years. The first losing season since 1967. The most losses in school history. The end of the longest bowl streak in the nation.

Obviously Rodriguez was the wrong man for the job. His offense can’t hold up in the bruising Big Ten. He’ll be gone in two years. Michigan football is descending into obscurity.

I, however, do not believe the sky is falling. In fact, I’m actually excited about the direction of Michigan football.

Would I like to have avoided a losing season? Absolutely. Would I like to have gone to a 34th consecutive bowl game? You bet. Would I like to have beaten Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State to a pulp? More than anything.

But, to paraphrase the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want.

As much as football fans hate it, especially in these days of immediate gratification, sometimes success requires perseverance through tough times.

Fritz Crisler, *Photo taken from bentley.umich.edu

Fritz Crisler, *Photo taken from bentley.umich.edu

With all the success that the Michigan football program has enjoyed in its storied history, it has had a proud tradition of leading the way on the college football landscape. From Fielding Yost’s “point-a-minute” teams and invention of the linebacker position in the early 1900s to Fritz Crisler’s “Mad Magicians” and institution of separate offensive and defensive units in the ‘30s and ‘40s, Michigan has a history of change and innovation.

Historically speaking, the hiring of Rodriguez is nothing new for Michigan football. Bennie Oosterbaan, who coached the Wolverines from 1948-58, was hailed as “the best offensive mind in college football” by Crisler. Many consider Rodriguez one of the top offensive minds in college football today.

It all comes down to a matter of perspective. Last season’s growing pains were not a reflection of Rodriguez’s coaching abilities or the fall of the Michigan football program. They were a result of a complete overhaul from one way of doing things to another.

Take Apple, for example. Throughout the 1980s, Apple Computer, Inc. dominated the computer market until it became outdated and passed up by its competitors.

In need of something new, the company overhauled its image and is now considered by Fortune magazine to be the most admired company in the world. One of its main criticisms during its downslide was its cost, but by enhancing its image and its product, consumers now know they are getting a great and “sexy” product despite the higher cost.

Apple was able to reinvent itself without losing its roots. Likewise, Michigan’s hiring of Rodriguez should be seen as a commitment to reinventing the football program and tapping into its rich tradition of innovation, rather than a departure from “Michigan football.”

Last season was hard to stomach for Michigan fans. Hearing opposing fans laugh in our misery makes it even worse. But despite that, it makes me even more proud to be a Michigan fan.

For my entire life, Michigan has been expected to win nearly every game it played. It was a great, and boastful feeling. Then Ohio State hired Jim Tressel, who has won seven of the eight games he has coached in the rivalry. Then Michigan lost four straight bowl games, including three Rose Bowls. Then, a senior-laden Michigan team lost at home to Appalachian State.

Suddenly, mighty Michigan was no longer feared. It became synonymous with underachieving. It no longer had the upper hand against its most bitter rival. Its leader for the last 13 years retired. A chapter had to be closed, and a new one had to be started.

Enter Rodriguez, an innovator who has had success everywhere he has been. He won 59 percent of his games at NAIA Glenville State in his first true head coaching position, then won 70 percent of his games at West Virginia, including four Big East titles in seven years.

*Photo by Jim Beaver, Sports Illustrated

*Photo by Jim Beaver, Sports Illustrated

He also coordinated Tulane’s offense to a 12-0 record in 1998, and took a Clemson offense that averaged just 19.9 points and 304 yards per game the year before he arrived to a 9-3 record in 2000, averaging 36 points and 446 yards per game.

The guy knows how to run and offense and he knows how to win. It just takes time.
Instead of big, hulking offensive linemen, he needs smaller, faster linemen. Goodbye Boren, Kurt Wermers, Dann O’Neill, Jeremy Ciulla, Grant DeBenedictis, Brett Gallimore and Alex Mitchell.

Instead of big, tall pro-style wide receivers, he needs small, quick slot-type guys. Goodbye Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington and Toney Clemons. Hello Terrence Robinson, Martavious Odoms, Roy Roundtree, Teric Jones and Jeremy Gallon.

Most importantly, instead of a tall, pro-style pocket-passing quarterback, he needs fast, shifty spread-option guys. Goodbye Ryan Mallet and Steven Threet. Hello Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson.

Just like that, he’s got the foundation of his offense to develop for the next four or five years along with the subsequent recruiting classes.

Winning with a bunch of freshmen isn’t going to happen overnight. Once they learn and grow in the system, the winning will come.

As much as opposing fans like to call it an excuse, the truth is that it just takes time to overhaul your roster to fit your needs. Sure Rodriguez may have won a couple more games last season by running a “normal” offense, but at what cost? Is it worth preserving a couple of streaks to risk slowing down the reinvention process?

I say no. And that is where the excitement lies. Of course Rodriguez didn’t try to go 3-9 last season, but as the next couple of years play out and we gain more perspective, I am confident that we will look back on that season as a sort of necessary evil.

Just like when you’re building a new house and you can’t wait to move in, I can’t wait for the excitement of the new Michigan football when the renovation is complete. The teams that will be dazzling the Big Ten with lightning-quick backs and receivers, racking up points the way Crisler’s “Mad Magicians” did 62 years ago.

For now though, I’ll keep watching the new Michigan Wolverines take shape and grow. And I’ll find much more delight in watching the team go 7-5 in 2009 than I did when a Michigan team full of NFL talent went 7-5 in 2005.

And you never know, maybe this year’s team will overachieve.