The fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines head to their own personal nightmare venue as they travel to Iowa to take on the 3-1 Hawkeyes on Saturday afternoon. Michigan has lost four straight games in Iowa dating back to 2009. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 27-10 win over Rutgers and are at the start of a grueling schedule in which they host the Wolverines and then travel to Columbus, OH to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in two weeks. The opening kick is scheduled for 12:00pm EST.
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House of HorrorsOnce again, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is staring down a foe that has haunted the Wolverines in recent history and looking to turn his team's fortunes. Harbaugh is 0-1 in his brief tenure as Michigan's head coach but the Wolverines have lost four straight in Iowa since 2009 heading into Saturday's showdown. The #4 Wolverines tuned up for Saturday's battle with a 34-27 home win over Maryland last Saturday to kick off their Big 10 schedule.
"I think he (Michigan QB JJ McCarthy) did a lot of great things. Game on the line throws to Roman (Wilson), to Ronnie Bell, just to name a couple. Thought he worked the ball to the tight end (Luke) Schoonmaker. He had a great game, seven catches, career high for him. And then it just kind of settled in, played good, fundamental football." Harbaugh said in his postgame press conference about his team's performance against Maryland.
McCarthy was a solid 18-of-26 passing for 220 yards and two touchdowns in the win. He found tight end Luke Schoonmaker for one score and WR Wilson for another. The story of the day, however, was the Wolverines' ground game. RB Blake Corum had career-highs in both carries and yards with 30 rushes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. The red-hot Corum has now established his own single game records in yards and carries and a school-record with five touchdowns in a single game all in the span of two weeks. Michigan finished the game with 463 yards of total offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan held the Terrapins to 397 total yards but struggled to contain them on third and fourth down conversions. Maryland was 6-for-14 on third downs and a perfect 3-for-3 on fourth down. The Wolverines did have five tackles for loss on the day, three sacks and picked off two passes in the tight victory.
So, here we are, Harbaugh is once again in a position to exercise the Wolverines' demons and keep the team's playoff hopes on track. By the numbers, Michigan has been excellent on both sides of the ball thus far. The Wolverines rank #2 in scoring offense thus far and #14 in total offense. Michigan's ground attack is ranked 9th in the country and it passing offense is ranked 54th. On the defensive side of the ball, the Wolverines are ranked 6th in scoring defense and 4th in total defense. Michigan is ranked 28th against the run and 5th against the pass. In the turnover department, the Wolverines are ranked 20th in turnover differential.
Home CookingThe Iowa Hawkeyes warmed up for their showdown with the Wolverines with a defensive-led road win over Rutgers last Saturday night, 27-10. The Hawkeyes approved to 3-1 on the season thanks to a defense that created two defensive touchdowns and caused three turnovers in a win in their Big 10 opener.
“This is certainly the best way to start Big Ten play. I’m really happy for our coaches and players, I thought they did a great job. It’s a hostile environment and coming in here we knew it would be. I thought our guys did a good job concentrating through that, they kept their composure. Bottom line is I think we really had good team play out there, so that’s always a good thing. I think we saw improvement on all three phases, at least that’s my vantage point. To talk about the defense, a lot of really good efforts out there, certainly some great playmaking by our guys. Clearly the guys are really playing at a high level right now and doing a good job. The two defensive touchdowns did feel a little bit like the Indiana game, that’s the last time we did that, so a lot to be pleased about there. Offensively, I think we made progress. There were some things that were better out there today. It’s kind of a weird game in some ways you lose a couple possessions, nobody’s going to complain about that, but I thought we did some things better. Most importantly, I think the lines were all a little bit better. We’re still not as cohesive as we need to be, there’s still some things going on." Head coach Kirk Ferentz said to begin his postgame press conference.
Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras went 11-for-17 for 148 yards on the day with his primary target being Sam LaPorta, who had four catches for 77 yards. The Hawkeyes ground game was split between LeShon Williams, who had 11 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown, and Kaleb Johnson added 58 yards on 15 carries. The Hawkeyes had just 277 total yards of offense on the day. The star of the offense may very well have been freshman kicker Drew Stevens, who improved to 4-for-4 on the season in field goals with two on the night.
The Hawkeye defense as a whole ruled the day. They forced three turnovers on the night with two returned for touchdowns. Cooper DeJean returned an interception 45-yards for a score and Kaevon Merriweather picked up a fumble and raced 30-yards for a score. Merriweather added an interception as well. The Hawkeyes did allow 361 yards of total offense on the night. They did hold the Hawkeyes to just 5-of-16 on third down conversions, had three sacks and eight tackles for loss on the night.
This week's Honorary Captain is the great @BRADBANKS7!— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) September 29, 2022
In 2002, he was named the @AP Player of the Year, @B1Gfootball MVP, First Team All-B1G and won the @daveyobrien Award as the nation's best quarterback.#Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/qv6mhI3hnD
The Hawkeyes' defense will need to step up again against the Wolverines on Saturday. Here is a deeper dive into Iowa's numbers so far this season. On the offensive side of the ball, Iowa is ranked 98th in scoring offense and 121st in total offense. The Hawkeyes are 98th in rushing offense and 119th in passing offense. Defense is Iowa's calling card and is reflected in the numbers. Iowa has the #2 ranked scoring defense and 11th in total defense. Against the run, the Hawkeyes are ranked 12th and 25th against the pass. Iowa is ranked 9th in turnover differential this season.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
I'm going to buck the trend of Iowa's hex over the Wolverines at home and go with Michigan in this one. While the Iowa defense has been outstanding, their offense is abysmal. Michigan is pumping 50 points per game this season so, even if they are slowed down to half of that, the Hawkeyes don't have the kind of offense to keep it close. Truthfully, if the game was looked at strictly by the numbers, this spread should be much higher. Oddsmakers are clearly taking recent history into consideration in this one but I'm looking at the improvement in Michigan's offense, particularly in lack of turnover, with McCarthy at the helm full-time at quarterback. Don't expect to see the Wolverines turn the ball over here while they pound the Hawkeyes with a very hot running back in Corum to set up the play-action pass. Iowa's poor offense will not be able to do much with a stout Wolverines defense, particularly when they have to throw to try to get back in the game. The Wolverines are ranked fifth against the pass and will keep Iowa at bay. While Iowa has traditionally been a house of horrors for the Wolverines, this year will be the exception.
Lay the points (-10.5) and go with Michigan.
Full-Game Total Pick
This line has dropped a half a point over the week thus far and for good reason. The Hawkeyes scored two touchdowns via their defense last week and have the 121st-ranked offense in the country. Michigan will control the tempo with an improved ground game and a methodical approach to the passing game to limit turnovers. With that in mind, this game's pace will be slow enough to stay under the game total. In Harbaugh's one meeting with Iowa in Iowa, he brought another high-scoring offense into town and scored just 13 points. I don't expect that in this game but the Wolverines will likely score under 30 points in this game and grind down the Hawkeyes. Iowa will struggle to get to ten points with their porous offense against a top Wolverine defense.
Take the under, 42.5 points.