With another Big Ten game looming between Michigan and Iowa slated for Saturday night, I worked with Iowa Featured Columnist Kevin Trahan for a preview of this weekend's game.
Many have questioned Iowa's (5-0, 1-0) ability as a top-15 team after near losses to Northern Iowa and Arkansas State, but a big win over Penn State and a stout defense may stake claim to their ranking.
Michigan (4-1, 1-1), meanwhile, is coming off its first loss of the season, but may be better for it. They looked better on defense against Michigan State, but made some lapses on offense.
In front of a national audience on ESPN, the showdown is slated as one of the more intriguing games in week six.
Here are five questions I asked Kevin and how he answered them:
1. What is the single biggest strength on the Iowa team this season?
Kevin: The biggest strength is by far the defense. The pass defense is what made the headlines earlier this season, but the defensive line has been unstoppable, as teams have no nowhere to run and the quarterbacks have been pressured all day.
(Nic Grigsby, Arizona, was the nation’s second leading rusher coming into a game against the Hawkeyes, but Iowa held him to 75 yards rushing, with all but 17 of those yards coming on one play.)
2. Is it safe to say that this team gets up for the big games (win over Penn State) and sometimes struggles in games against inferior opponents (near losses to Northern Iowa and Arkansas State)?
Kevin: Yes, the Hawkeyes definitely need to learn not to play down to their opponents. But hey, if they can get the win somehow, I’m happy.
3. Tyler Sash might be unknown to some Michigan fans. With five picks already this season, is he the real deal for the Hawkeyes?
Kevin: He always seems to be around the ball. He and Pat Angerer will both look to have huge games, as Angerer has been very solid throughout the season as well.
4. What will most likely be the game plan to contain Tate Forcier on Saturday?
Kevin: The Hawkeyes have put tons of pressure on every quarterback they’ve faced this year. Just ask Daryll Clark, who was pressured or sacked nearly every play. Forcier is a good quarterback, but when under pressure, he makes some dumb “freshman” throws. Those throws haven’t cost him in his other games, but the Hawkeyes are outstanding at forcing turnovers and will try to rattle Forcier by getting a few interceptions.
5. Will Stanzi be looking to pick apart the Michigan secondary or will the Hawkeyes look to wear down the D with the run?
Kevin: Iowa is and always has been a run first team. If the run isn’t working, they’ll have no problem going to the air, but, with All-American candidate Bryan Bulaga back on the offensive line, the whole unit, that has been ranked by ESPN, Phil Steele, College Football News, and other sources as one of the top five offensive lines in the country, is healthy, the running game shouldn’t have a problem.
But, as I said, the Hawkeyes will likely try to raise Stanzi’s confidence level, as Michigan’s secondary isn’t too spectacular.
Here are some of the questions I answered for Kevin:
1. Will Forcier keep his cool under the pressure that Iowa’s defensive line offers?
Adam: Forcier’s poise as a freshman is one of the most unbelievable things about him. There have been several times where he has been on the verge of being sacked and he somehow gets away turning the play into a positive yardage play.
I’m sure he hasn’t faced a defensive line like what Iowa presents and it’ll be interesting to see how he fairs. Michigan’s offense line has a mammoth task ahead this weekend.
2. What defensive player scares you the most for the Hawkeyes?
Adam: I’ll go with the defensive line as a whole. If they shut down the Michigan run, it’s going to be another long game. The Spartans shut down the run last week and Michigan looked ineffective up until five minutes left in the fourth when they scored twice. I’m not sure Michigan will be so lucky to come back again if the run doesn’t prevail again.
3. Even after last week’s loss, do you think the Michigan secondary improved a bit?
Adam: The secondary really had no place but up and it did show glimpses last weekend. Walk-on safety Jordan Kovacs was huge in the game against the Spartans recording 17 tackles and cornerback J.T. Floyd seems much better than Boubacar Cissoko at one of the corner spots.
The secondary as a whole did a nice job against the top-ranked Spartan passing attack, giving up no touchdowns, intercepting Cousins twice and containing the MSU wide outs. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but last week was a huge step.
There are three main ones in my eyes.
I'll have to start with the Michigan running game against the Iowa defensive line and really, defense as a whole. Iowa is deep this season when it comes to talent on defense, so Michigan needs to establish the run game early.
Maize and Blue fans everywhere all saw how miserable it was through three and a half quarters because Michigan couldn't run the ball.
Another should be Iowa's Ricki Stanzi versus the Michigan secondary. Stanzi has looked good at times this season, but is also prone to throwing some interceptions (seven in five games). Arkansas State came back in the game against the Hawkeyes because Stanzi made threw a couple interceptions.
Should he find some hands of the Michigan players, it would go leaps and bounds in helping the Wolverines win the game.
The final key match-up is Tate Forcier against the defense as a whole. Forcier has yet to face a real Big 10 defense with the talent of Iowa and that will ensue this weekend. He's looked everything but a freshman in all the games this season, but it'll be interesting to see how he fairs against a defense that will blitz him all day.
The decisions he makes with the ball could determine the outcome of the game.
Kevin Trahan's Prediction
Iowa 27, Michigan 13
Adam Bouton's Prediction
Playing in front of a national audience and at home, I expect the Hawkeye defense to again wreck havoc for the opposing team. Tate Forcier will make some plays with his arm and legs, but also will throw into a couple of miscues and the Wolverine rush attack will again struggle for the second straight week.
Iowa could get out to a big lead, but don't count out Forcier and the Michigan offense coming back and making a game out of it.
Iowa 27, Michigan 20