Team 137’s Week 11 Preview: Heading to Iowa

Jim Harbaugh is well aware of Michigan’s recent struggles at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa is one of the toughest venues to play at in the B1G, especially at night. The last time the Wolverines came away with a victory at Kinnick Stadium was with a three-point overtime victory in 2005, during the Lloyd Carr era. Games in 2009, 2011 and 2013 all resulted in close Hawkeye victories. Things have changed since that last loss though. Most importantly Michigan’s leader has shifted to a guy by the name of James Joseph Harbaugh.

Rushing Offense against Iowa

Iowa has issues all over the field, which is something the experts didn’t expect after their appearance in the B1G title game last season. The Hawkeyes were expected to return with experienced players and compete for another title game appearance, but in the words of Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.” Iowa has been atrocious on defense and not much better on the offensive side.

The Hawkeyes are allowing 176 yards rushing per game to opposing offenses. Last week they surrendered 167 to Penn State running back Saquon Barkley alone. With eight players from the starting defense returning, this was supposed to a strong unit entering the season. Middle linebacker Josey Jewell is considered one of the B1G ‘s most productive, and he leads the conference with 87 tackles upon entering Saturday’s tilt.

De’Veon Smith looked like a man on a mission last week. It was the first week this season that Smith appeared to be a fresh and healthy feature back. Although others received carries, Smith was the workhorse for the afternoon, scoring three times. Was this all part of the plan? Give Smith a break early on so he was fresh later in the season? Maybe. If so, it looks to be paying dividends already.

  • Advantage: Michigan

Iowa couldn’t stop running water if it had a nozzle. This is a no-brainer, Michigan should surpass 200 yards with ease.

Passing Offense against Iowa

Wilton Speight is going to carve up some Hawkeyes Saturday evening, especially on the play action pass. Hawkeye linebackers have been caught several times with their eyes in the backfield, and that’s a costly mistake against a team this talented. Speight will continue to improve his weekly totals against a weak Iowa secondary.

Although the Hawkeyes have returned with last year’s Thorpe Award winner and Detroit native, Desmond King, they have still struggled to defend the likes of other B1G opponents. Penn State threw for 240 last week and Purdue lambasted them a few weeks back, allowing over 400 yards through the air. They do have five interceptions on the season, but everything else looks flimsy.

  • Advantage: Michigan

King is a legit NFL prospect and should be respected, but the rest of the secondary can be beaten. Harbaugh picks apart film better than anyone in the country, and he’ll have a field day exploiting Iowa on their home turf.

Rushing Defense against Iowa

Iowa does few things well, but they do have a couple of running backs that have some wiggle. Averaging 152 yards per game on the ground, the Hawkeyes can appear to be somewhat competitive, though they are last in the B1G in that category.

Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels comprise the Hawkeye duo that is responsible for the ground game. Both have combined for over 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a team, however, Iowa ranks 118th in the FBS. Most of their work has been done against lower level competition while they struggle against the big dogs.

The Wolverine D really shines against bad offenses, and this should be no different.  Linebacker Mike McCray struggled running sideline-to-sideline last week and wasn’t ashamed to admit it (check his twitter), but there is no need to panic in linebacker land. McCray and other defensive players know that they need to be better at point moving forward in order to have a legitimate shot at the national playoff. Devin Bush, Jr. replaced McCray last week (injury) and showed to be a solid contributor in his absence.

Channing Stribling MUST do a better job of form tackling on runs to his side of the field. Coaches are beginning to notice his weakness, and it’s painful to watch. Playing against the likes of Ohio State and possibly Alabama, he has to be stronger in run support.

  • Advantage: Michigan

Iowa’s backs are serviceable and could be really fine players in other offenses, but not this one. Iowa has been sluggish all around; though there is a chance one of these shifty backs could break one. Realistically, put your money on Wormley and Peppers to shut down any real penetration.

Passing Defense against Iowa

CJ Beathard looked like a rising star last season (2nd team All-B1G), but he has hit somewhat of a wall. He did lose his favorite target in receiver Matt VandeBerg, but VandeBerg would have struggled to get open against this defense anyway.

Averaging 176 yards per game passing, rarely going deep and forecasting a predictable running game, the Hawkeyes face plenty of obstacles this Saturday night that will leave them coming up empty.

The Wolverine defensive line and secondary, however, will eat an early dinner. Jourdan Lewis and Stribling continue to be two of the toughest cornerbacks to face in the country, dominating opposing receivers. While it may seem like the safeties could be a little more aggressive with balls in the air, they have done an exceptional job keeping plays in front of them. Lavert Hill is starting to see some time in nickel and dime packages and should be prepared moving forward if an injury was to take place.

  • Advantage: Michigan

“Nom, nom, nom” is Michigan’s defense all night long, especially in the secondary. Beathard will face his toughest challenge yet, and unless they figured something out, it’s going to be a long night for Iowa.

Prediction: Michigan 45 – Iowa 7

Michigan will win its 10th game of the season, and it won’t be close. Iowa plays hard at home but have lost three games this season at Kinnick. Could they pull it together for a game with Michigan? Possibly, but the odds are with Blue.

Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog