THE BREAKDOWN: Michigan

The favored Iowa Hawkeyes head into the Big House this weekend for a Big Ten showdown with Michigan. Hawkeye Insider publisher Rob Howe analyzes the contest in The Breakdown.

IOWA CITY, Ia. - Kirk Ferentz really tried hard to make Michigan's defense sound dangerous. He talked about all of the talent on that side of the ball and its potential.

The Iowa Coach said what he had to say. He wasn't going to bash the Wolverines D. He needed his players to respect it.

In some cases, the whole is better than the sum of its parts. In this instance, the whole falls short of the sum of its components. Sometimes you get the Traveling Wilburys. Sometimes you get Asia.

Ferentz has forgotten more about football than I'll ever know. I'm fully aware of that. Having said that, Michigan's defense just isn't performing well. And that's how it should be judged.

I watched Michigan's last two games in their entirety. Indiana and Michigan State pretty much scored at will.

The Wolverines are ranked 75th nationally in scoring allowing almost 27 points per game. They're 112 in total defense having given up roughly 450 yards an outing.

Michigan Quarterback Denard Robinson is grabbing the headlines this week with Iowa heading to Ann Arbor. He is coming off a game where he accounted for more than 300 yards and his team still lost 34-17 against rival Michigan State last weekend.

The Wolverines' defense needs to take a huge step forward this week for them to pull the upset against Iowa. It's the key to the game more than it is the Hawkleyes stopping everyone's Heisman favorite.

"We have to get off blocks," Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Even last week, we seemed to do pretty well for a couple of plays and then we let them bust a long play. That's the key. That's the thing we have to get away from."

On the opposite side of the ball, the Wolverines will face their top defensive front to date going against Iowa's front four.

"If you get these guys blocked, you're not going to keep them blocked for long," Rodriguez said. "There are not a lot of people that have success on delayed things with them because they're so good at getting off blocks, not just their front four but their linebackers as well. If there's a hole or a crease, you better hit it pretty quick.

TELEVISION: Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. central and the game be seen regionally on ABC (HD). Fans not in the ABC regional footprint can watch on ESPN (HD). Ron Franklin and Ed Cunningham will call the action. See where the game will be shown in your area on this coverage map.

RECORDS, RANKINGS: The Coaches' Poll has Iowa (4-1) at 14th while the AP ranks the Hawkeyes 15th. Michigan (5-1) comes in at 24th in the Coaches' Top 25 and are unranked by the AP.

HISTORY: The Wolverines hold a 40-11-4 advantage in the series. Iowa won the last meeting, 30-28, in Iowa City last year. Three of the last five games have been decided by three points or less. The Hawkeyes last win in Ann Arbor came in 2002, 34-9.

HAWKEYE HUDDLE: The National I-Club and the UI Alumni Association are sponsoring a "Hawkeye Huddle" Saturday, Oct. 16 prior to the Iowa at Michigan game. The Huddle will be held from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. (ET) at Kensington Court Ann Arbor, 610 Hilton Boulevard in Ann Arbor. Admission to the Hawkeye Huddle is free and includes cash refreshments, snacks, Hawk Shop door prizes, Hawkeye D.J., cheerleaders and Herky.

THE LINE: Danny Sheridan had Iowa as a 3 1/2-point favorite as of Wednesday morning. A slight tick toward Iowa appeared at some off-shore books that opened with the Hawkeyes at minus 3, but there's not been much movement beyond that.

We always like to wait to see what happens with the late money, but I wouldn't expect any big moves here. It seems like the bookmakers hit this one close to dead on.

It says a lot that casual fans aren't jumping on a 5-1 Michigan team getting more than a field goal at home, but it seems clear Iowa is a better team right now and a program in better condition.

I don't think the line tells us much if anything this week, although I'm still searching for my answer to when the Hawkeyes were last favored in Ann Arbor. Has it ever happened? Anyone?

KEY MATCH-UPS:

-Michigan QB Denard Robinson vs. Iowa's Defense - A lot was made of the matchup between Robinson and Michigan State MLB Greg Jones a week ago. I got it. Both players have been dynamic.

Then, I watched the game. Jones played well, as always, but received great support from his teammates.

That's what the Hawkeyes will need this week - a team defensive effort. Maybe it's cliche, but if one guy misses an assignment or goes off on his own, D-Rob can make them pay.

It starts up front with the linemen staying disciplined. If they get going too far up field, it leaves too many lanes open for Robinson.

The linebackers also must stick to their assignments. Robinson is capable of drawing them toward the line of scrimmage and then dumping the ball to one of many talented receivers.

-Iowa Center James Ferentz vs. Michigan NT Mike Martin - Maybe Martin sticks out so much because he plays on a porous defense. More likely, he's that good.

For the most part, the coach's kid has held up well in his first season as a starter. He suffered through some tough moments at Arizona but that was the case all along Iowa's front.

Martin is a force at 6-2, 298 pounds. He's a lot like Iowa's interior linemen on defense. It could help that Ferentz will be assisted with Michigan employing a three-man defensive line, but pressure will come fro elsewhere on the defense in the form of blitz packages.

-Michigan Center David Molk vs. Iowa Tackle Karl Klug - This collision should be a good one. Both of these cats play with an edge and have active motors.

Molk has played a huge role on opening things up for Robinson, but he'll have his work cut out for him against Klug. They could leave serious marks in the Big House with the type of leverage they both possess. Molk also will see plenty of Christian Ballard and Mike Daniels as well, so he better get some rest.

-Iowa Tight End Allen Reisner vs. Michigan OLB Craig Roh - Reisner seems to collect his receptions in bunches but they're usually keep plays in scoring drives. Then, the defense adjusts and takes away one of QB Ricky Stanzi's top targets, opening things up for others on the offense.

Roh is a very athletic linebacker that matches up well with Reisner. He runs well and is long.

INJURIES:

Michigan - Martavious Odoms (Out, Broken foot); Fitz Toussaint (Out, Rotator Cuff); Mike Martin (Probable, ankle); David Molk (Probable, ankle); Carvin Johnson (Probable, knee).

Iowa - Jeff Tarpinian (Doubtful, neck); Jordan Bernstine (Probable, leg);

THE SKINNY - MICHIGAN:

-This will be the Wolverines 110th Homecoming game.

-Michigan looks to snap a three-game losing streak to ranked Iowa teams after losing in 2002, 2003 and 2009.

-The last Wolverine victory against a ranked Iowa team was a come-from-behind 28-24 affair during the 1997 national championship.

-The Wolverines are third nationally in total offense (565.0 avg.); trails national leader Oregon (567.0 avg.) and Nevada (545.3 avg.)

-Michigan has converted 23-of-26 red zone chances, scoring 21 touchdowns and kicking two field goals.

-QB Denard Robinson is the nation's second-leading rusher with an average of 165.7 yards per game. He's the only quarterback in NCAA history to run for 200 yards and pass for 200 yards in two games in a single season.

-82 of the 124 players (66%) on Michigan's roster are fresh- men or sophomore eligible.

-Michigan's 2010 roster is represented by 22 different states and Canada.

THE SKINNY - IOWA:

-Iowa will be serving has the Wolverines' Homecoming opponent for the ninth time. The Hawkeyes are 3-5 in that role.

-Erik Campbell, a former Wolverine player and assistant coach, is in his third season as the wide receivers coach for Iowa. Campbell coached the wide receivers and punt returners for 13 seasons at Michigan (1995- 2007) and was the team's assistant head coach for the final five years of his tenure.

-Not only does the Iowa defense rank second in the nation in rushing yards allowed (63.2), the Hawkeyes are the only Division I team that has not allowed a rushing touchdown in 2010. Dating back to the third period of the 2010 Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech, Iowa has not allowed a rushing touchdown in 21 consecutive quarters.

-This will be just the second time since 1985 that Iowa is ranked higher than Michigan the week of the game. In 1985, top-ranked Iowa defeated second-ranked Michigan 12-10 in Kinnick Stadium. In the 19 meetings since 1985, Michigan has been ranked 16 times and Iowa has been ranked eight times. Iowa was ranked 12/14 last year, while Michigan was receiving votes in both polls.

-No current Iowa players saw action when the teams last met in Michigan Stadium in 2006.

THE PREDICTION: I predicted this as an Iowa loss before the season and still am concerned in similar ways to what I felt about going to Arizona. Last week's Michigan State win in Ann Arbor has me feeling better about the Hawkeyes' chances, but I'm not completely sold.

Iowa is the better team. I think the Hawkeyes are better than Arizona. As we know, the best team doesn't always win.

I almost would have felt better had the Wolverines won last week. I think they were sky high on the hype and now the Michigan coaches have their attention.

The Wolverines are talented. They're home. And they're the hunter.

Still, I think the Hawkeyes will need to help Michigan win this game just like they assisted the Wildcats in Tucson last month. It's hard to imagine all of those same things going wrong for Iowa again this week, but it might not take as many.

One of Iowa's main weaknesses this season has been consistent tackling. It hasn't bitten them in the butt but once, but it could wreck them this week. You have to hope that area was sured up during the bye week.

While Iowa has had two weeks to prepare for the Wolverines and to heal up bumps and bruises, teams also can come off the byes flat. Iowa was rolling along pretty well and they're not the hardest team for which to prepare.

OK. I'm done trying to convince myself that Michigan will win this game. Sometimes one has to admit he's wrong. I was wrong thinking at the beginning of the year that this was an Iowa loss.

IOWA 31, Michigan 20

STATISTICS:

Michigan

Iowa


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