Iowa CITY, Iowa - Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz appeared his usual calm, cool and collected self at Tuesday's press conference. It would have been tough to tell that he was coming off a crushing loss at Minnesota and about to face No. 15 Michigan.
"We're just going to keep working," Ferentz said. "The cavalry is not coming. We're not going out and picking up any free agents. Nobody is graduating midterm and coming in to help us, so we're just going to keep playing."
Few people gave Minnesota much of a chance to win last week's game against Iowa. The Gophers believed and pulled it off.
The Hawkeyes need to make up significant ground on defense. They have to be more efficient on offense than they were a week ago.
But Iowa boasts a home field advantage. The Hawkeyes are better than they played last week.
"It's just fun to play Iowa," Michigan Coach Brady Hoke said. "They're well coached. Their fundamentals and techniques, you love watching them on tape."
TELEVISION: The game will be televised to a national audience by ESPN. The announcers are Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman and sideline reporter Quint Kessenich.
RECORDS, RANKINGS: Iowa is 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten. Michigan is 7-1 and 3-1.
The Wolverines are ranked 13th in the AP and Coaches Polls. They're 15 in the BCS Standings.
HISTORY: This is the 57th meeting between the two schools. Michigan leads the all-time series by a 40-12-4 margin. Iowa has won the last two games in the series, including last year's 38-28 contest at Ann Arbor. Iowa has never won three straight in the series.
THE LINE: Caesar's in Vegas installed Michigan has a four-point favorite to open on Monday. It held there through Wednesday.
An old friend of mine back in Atlantic City used to say some lines told him something. I think he'd have thought that about this one.
Michigan is rolling right now and Iowa comes off an embarrassing loss at Minnesota. Yet, the bettor only has to lay four points to get the Wolverines.
Michigan leads the Big Ten in total offense and quarterback Denard Robinson faces a Hawkeye defense that can't find an answer for mobile signal callers. Iowa also is trying to beat the Wolverines for a third time in a row for the first time in the history of the series.
Yes, Iowa rolls into Saturday's action at 5-0 in Kinnick Stadium. Michigan is 7-1 overall this season, but 1-1 on the road having won at Northwestern.
Maybe the lines makers and gamblers aren't sold yet on the Wolverines. They probable remember ripping up a lot of tickets during the Rich Rodriguez years.
The over-under number is 58. That seems like a reachable total on a day expected to be in the mid-60s and sunny.
Here are a some interesting trends:
-Hawkeyes are 4-0-1 ATS in their last 5 games as a home underdog.
-Hawkeyes are 11-3-1 ATS in their last 15 games as an underdog.
-Hawkeyes are 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
-Hawkeyes are 1-6-1 ATS in their last 8 conference games.
-Hawkeyes are 0-4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in November.
-Wolverines are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games as a favorite.
-Wolverines are 7-18 ATS in their last 25 games as a road favorite of 3.5-10.0.
-Wolverines are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 road games.
-Wolverines are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games as a road favorite.
Scherff started last week in place of Tobin, but the latter entered the game early and never left. It clearly has been the soft spot on this year's Iowa offensive line.
Martin can be very disruptive and has given Iowa troubles in the past.
Iowa WR Marvin McNutt vs. Michigan CB T.J. Floyd - Notre Dame's Michael Floyd lit up Michigan with 13 catches for 159 yards earlier this season. The Wolverines have allowed 194.6 passing yards a game this season.
McNutt could create problems for Michigan with his size and strength. He'll probably require extra attention, which could create openings for other Hawkeyes.
Minnesota brought a safety over the top last week and McNutt still grabbed seven passes for more than 100 yards. It also helped leave holes through which running back Marcus Coker ran.
Michigan QB Denard Robinson vs. Iowa Defense - If you've followed Iowa football at all this season, you know the Hawkeyes struggle in containing mobile quarterbacks. Robinson will be the most dangerous of those types.
Iowa must find a way to keep Robinson from hurting them with his legs. He's not a very good passer as evidenced by his 11 interceptions.
But Iowa has faced scramblers with poor passing numbers this season, and they've figured out against the Hawkeyes.
Michigan WR Junior Hemingway vs. Iowa CB Shaun Prater - In an attempt to help its front seven, Iowa has played more man-to-man on the outside than it had in recent memory. Prater has been caught a couple of times in that formation.
Hemingway is a big, physical receiver who will challenge the Iowa secondary. If Robinson can avoid the rush and break contain, he'll be looking down field for his playmaker.
Iowa - Tom Nardo (probable, ankle), Anthony Hitchens (questionable, leg), Mika'il McCall (questionable, leg), Keenan Davis (questionable, ankle), Nolan MacMillan (doubtful, hernia), Shane Dibona (out for season, achilles), Dakota Getz (out for season, knee).
- The Wolverines have out-scored their opponents 229-68 from the second quarter on and 135-49 in the second half.
-Michigan has totaled 500+ yards in three of its past four games, including 535 yards last week vs. Purdue.
-After allowing 35.2 points per game in 2010, Michigan's defense is allowing 14.6 points per game through eight games in 2011, ranking 2nd in the Big Ten and 6th in the nation in scoring defense.
-The Wolverines rank 1st in the nation in red zone defense and 3rd in the Big Ten and tied for 26th in the nation in red zone offense.
-Michigan is 31-for-35 this season in red zone scoring efficiency, and one failed attempt came while taking a knee as time expired on the final drive vs. Minnesota. Twenty-five of the 31 scores have resulted in touchdowns (71%).
-Michigan has committed only 34 penalties for 309 yards in eight games. Michigan ranks 1st in the Big Ten and tied for 9th in the nation in fewest penalties per game.
-The Wolverines have forced 20 turnovers (2nd in the Big Ten, tied for 12th in the NCAA) and own a +6 turnover margin.
-Michigan was 3rd in the Big Ten and 13th nationally with an average of 238.5 rushing yards per game.
-Michigan has converted 49 of 96 third downs (51.0%), good for 2nd-best in the Big Ten and 7th in the nation.
-Michigan had been held without a point in the first quarter of each of the first three games. The Wolverines have scored a touchdown on their first offensive drives in each of the past five games.
-Iowa is 22-4 (.846) at home since the start of the 2008 season.
-Iowa is sixth nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (33.6), tied for 11th in fewest turnovers (nine) and fewest penalties per game (4.2).
-IIowa RB Marcus Coker leads the Big Ten and ranks ninth in the nation in rush- ing yards per game (121.1), while Michigan QB Denard Robinson is fifth in the Big Ten and 17th in the nation.
-Michigan assistant Jerry Montgomery was a four-year letterman (1998-2001) as a defensive lineman at Iowa, playing his final three seasons under Coach Kirk Ferentz.
- The last six Iowa-Michigan games were televised by ABC, including a primetime contest in 2009.
THE PREDICTION: As I was talking about in "The Line" section above, it's hard to make a case for Iowa this week. The match-up with Denard Robinson looks like a train wreck for the Hawkeye defense.
My feeling that Iowa bounces back this week keeps building. The four-point spread is telling me something.
The Hawkeyes seem to perform best when their backs are against the wall, people are down on them and while playing the role of underdog.
That scenario might open up the coaches to change. I think Iowa will be able to catch Michigan off balance and overconfident.
The Hawkeyes will need to control clock and rely on its offense. The defense must be opportunistic.
I'm going with my gut on this one.
IOWA 38, Michigan 35