The unranked Iowa Hawkeyes came into Saturday’s tilt against Michigan at Kinnick Stadium needing to show the rest of the Big Ten that they’re capable of beating a serious opponent at home.
With Iowa standing just one game behind the leaders in the Legends Division, this game will go a long way toward deciding who represents that side of the draw in the Big Ten title game.
After two hard-fought quarters against the No. 15 Wolverines, here are five things Iowa must do to stay in the game against Michigan:
1. Keep the Home Crowd In the Game
The Iowa fans at Kinnick Stadium are loud and can be disruptive for the visiting team. And with the Wolverines going three and out on their first drive, and the Hawkeyes subsequently driving right down the field for 76 yards in six plays for the opening points, there was reason for them to be enthused about their team’s success.
Michigan scored to take the crowd out for a bit, but the Hawkeyes have dominated since, keeping the fans entertaining and engaged.
The more Iowa can stay on the field—and, in turn, keep Michigan’s dangerous defense off the field—the more they’ll dominate the game and keep their fans in it.
2. Feed Marcus Coker
Coker, a 6’1”, 235-pound sophomore back, runs with a bruising style that is perfect for these cold, cloudy, late-fall afternoons. He can punish defenders who stand in his way, and he did just that last week, punishing Minnesota for 252 yards and two scores in Iowa’s 22-21 loss.
But he appears not to be missing a beat against the Wolverines and their struggling defense, rushing for 71 yards and a score on 14 carries.
If Iowa keeps its lead, Coker will play a huge role in continuing to move the ball and take time off the clock in the second half.
3. Contain Michigan's Rushing Game
Denard Robinson is one of the most exciting players in the nation. And although he hasn’t broken any enormous plays to this point, the potential is always there.
The Hawkeyes' defensive front seven has done an excellent job of keeping both Robinson and starting tailback Fitz Toussaint in check. They’ve manhandled the Michigan line, kept the runners mostly in the middle of the field and avoided giving up the big play.
As the members of the front seven start to get more and more tired as the game goes on, they must continue to contain the Michigan running game. By doing so, they’ll force Robinson into throwing the ball with more regularity, something that has often resulted in disaster for Denard and the Wolverines.
4. Keep Michigan's Offense off the Field
As has been said, the Michigan offense has the potential to be one of the most exciting in the country. They have six points at the half, so Iowa must be doing something right.
Part of it is the success of Iowa’s offense, but more of it can be attributed to Iowa’s play on defense. They’ve employed a bend-but-don’t-break approach that has seen Michigan move the ball. But the Hawkeyes have taken full advantage of several Denard Robinson mistakes—a fumble and a deflection that went for an interception—to keep him and his cronies in check.
5. Continue to Dominate on the Offensive Line
Not only is Coker running through big-time holes, but James Vandenberg is being allowed to sit back in the pocket and pick apart the Michigan secondary. That’s due to the success of the Iowa offensive line, a group that has been stellar against Michigan’s talented defensive line.
That success will need to continue if Vandenberg and Coker hope to continue their success in the second half.