Michigan is coming off a huge home loss against Michigan State. After starting 5-0, Michigan lost its first battle against a solid defense and their task doesn't get any easier this week against the Hawkeyes. On defense, the Wolverines were shredded on five straight possessions for 31 points. If they aren't more effective this week, the Michigan faithful are in a for a long afternoon.
Iowa comes to Ann Arbor ranked 15th nationally and are clearly the favorites. Their stifling defense and efficent offense have buoyed them to a 4-1 record. If not for a disappointing first half on the road against Arizona, Iowa might very well be 6-0 and in position to challenge Ohio State for a Big Ten title.
This game is huge for both teams. Iowa needs to win this game to stay in the Big Ten race. After Michigan they face Wisconsin and Michigan State.
For Michigan, this is a must have game. Last year they started strong and collapsed. If they do that again, Rich Rod's job is in trouble. Michigan can get back on track and prove that their is a bright future with Denard at the helm if they can get a big home win.
If you look at the film from last week, Denard Robinson was clearly not as dynamic as he had been in the first five games of the season. Michigan State was able to contain the read option and the defensive ends were able to force Robinson to run laterally rather than get up field. In the passing game, he made mistakes. Two of his interceptions were clearly bad, or inadvisable throws. Those two redzone turnovers crippled this offense and made it difficult for Michigan to stay in the ball game.
Don't expect Denard to put up ridiculous statistics against Iowa. But if he can match last weeks rushing and throwing yards, and cut down on mistakes, Michigan can score points.
Another point to remember is his effectiveness last season against Iowa. After Tate Forcier was pulled, Denard Robinson led a late scoring drive to put the Wolverines within striking distance before ultimately fall short.
In their four wins, the Hawkeyes have given up a total of 17 points and have yet to yield a rushing touchdown. Their pass defense isn't much worse. They're only giving up 179 yards a game, a number that is inflated by a poor early season performance against Arizona. This all adds up to the number one scoring defense in the country, yielding a mere 10.2 points per game. If Michigan through Michigan State's defense was tough, the Hawkeyes are on another level.
They haven't however, faced an offense as explosive as Michigan. Mark Dantonio coached in the Big East against Rich Rod's West Virginia teams and had experience game-planning against that offense. Iowa, in all likelihood, will mimic Michigan States defensive scheme.
The front four for Iowa will have to be disruptive and do a good job containing Michigan's read-option. In the secondary, they must not fall for run fakes and allow receivers to run vertical routes. Expect Iowa to play a lot of zone coverage to tighten the windows that Robinson must throw into.
This is clearly the key matchup of the game. If Iowa contains the Wolverines, this game won't be close.
Fifth year quarterback Ricky Stanzi is poised to have a huge game on Saturday. Michigan is currently giving up a ridiculous 303 yards a game through the air and Stanzi will look to take advantage of an inexperienced secondary. Stanzi is efficient and accurate. He's only thrown two interceptions against ten touchdowns and is completing nearly 70% of his throws.
He does, however, have a history of throwing interceptions, especially the back breaking pick-six. He needs to avoid making mistakes against Michigan, because if he doesn't, the Hawkeyes should be able to pick up big chunks of yardage.
Last week, Michigan was gashed in the running and passing game. They failed make tackles in space, and got beat long on throws. Their over pursuit made them vulnerable to cutback runs. That doesn't mean the 3-3-5 used by Wolverines can't work. Last night, West Virginia stifled South Florida with the same scheme. Michigan just needs to get better production. They need their front three to disrupt the offensive line to allow linebackers and secondary players to get a shot at runners without first having to fend off blockers.
Right now, only Mike Martin is able to cause havoc and demand double teams. For Michigan to contain Stanzi and Iowa running back Adam Robinson, Michigan must be better than last week. They have to pressure Stanzi, otherwise he will have the time he needs to expose a young secondary.
Last week the young Wolverines played tight. Denard forced throws and you could almost see the pressure weighing on them. Everyone predicts that after folding in their first test of the season, Michigan will do the same against Iowa. Michigan should come out loose, the pressure is not on them, after all. While RR may feel the heat, the Michigan team should be relaxed. Expectations are low, and they are playing a seriously good opponent.
If Michigan does come out with this sort of 'nothing to lose' approach, then they may be very dangerous. If they are able to get stops and move the ball early, the Big House crowd could become a factor and Michigan will be able to generate some momentum.
We'll see if Denard Robinson's post-game speech after the loss to the Spartans lights the fire under Michigan like Tebow's speech did for Florida two seasons ago.
Prediction: Michigan plays well and upsets the Iowa Hawkeyes. They've played well against them in the past and the Hawkeyes struggled against Michigan when they put Denard in during the second half. If Denard Robinson is as effective as last season against the Hawkeyes, expect a Michigan win.
31-24 Michigan's defense improves and Robinson makes better decisions in the passing game.