Best Team in the Big Ten
Not many saw this coming into the season. Several thought that the off-season hype wasn't warranted and that Michigan would not live up to it. Well, they have. They currently have the leagues best scoring offense averaging 48 points per game. They also have the leagues best scoring defense allowing just an average 11 points per contest. That would be a big reason why they are undefeated at 9-0 and ranked second in the AP poll. They are just coming off a walloping of Maryland in a game that was over before it even started.
Their QB, Wilton Speight has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Big Ten this season and has found a lot of success throwing the ball to Michigan's talented wide receiver Amara Darboh. Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis lead a dynamic defense that has been one of the best in the country this season.
The Hawkeyes have their hands full on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football this Saturday night and it's likely going to take Iowa's A+ game while catching Michigan on an off night to pull the upset.
This is something that Michigan hasn't endured much of this year. They blew out Penn State early in the season, have thumped Rutgers, Illinois, and Maryland, and didn't have too challenging of a non-conference schedule. They did find themselves behind 21-7 early to Colorado in week 3, but quickly regained the lead before the first half ended. Wisconsin played them tough in Ann Arbor, but that's about it for this team. They haven't found themselves in close games too often.
If, and it's a big if, Iowa can control some of the clock and control both Darboh and Jake Butt in the pass game along with their host of RB's, they could keep this game close throughout. They also need to avoid turning the ball over. Both Lewis and Peppers are a nightmare for Michigan on defense. And it doesn't even stop there.
I harped a lot last week about how Penn State struggled to convert third downs. Well, they shut me up really quick by converting 7 of 14 third down attempts to Iowa's 2 of 10. Well, this week the Wolverines bring the leagues best defense on third down to town. Michigan is allowing opponents to convert just 19% of the third downs they find themselves in. This does not spell good news for an Iowa team that has had a heck of a time converting third downs. In fact, Iowa comes in at 10th in the league in terms of converting on third downs.
This is going to be a huge part of the game Saturday. If Iowa stays predictable and runs the same set of plays in third and short situations, they will find themselves converting less that 30% of their third downs on Saturday night and maybe not even that much.
This Michigan team currently leads the Big Ten in sacks and sacks per game. They have recorded 30 sacks so far this season in 9 games and have seven guys with 3 or more this season. This spells trouble for the younger and banged up offensive line that Iowa runs out there. You have a quarterback that has lacked mobility so far this season and wide receivers who struggle to get open at times. Michigan's Taco Charlton leads the team with 4.5 sacks and is followed by four different players who have 3.5. This gives them multiple pass rushers that opposing offensive lines have to block, which has been a difficult task so far this season. If you're Iowa, you need to get the ball out of C.J. Beathard's hands as soon as possible because these pass rushers will be coming.
Michigan doesn't have one guy that is going to hurt you in the backfield. They currently possess four backs that have over 400 yards rushing on the year. All of them have scored at least three touchdowns and all average over five yards per carry. De'Veon Smith usually carries the load for Jim Harbaugh's bunch, but Ty Isaac, Chris Evans, and Karan Higdon (you guys have heard of him I'm sure) will factor in as well.
This is going to make it hard for Iowa to prepare. When you have so many weapons to throw at an opposing team it gets difficult to prepare for all of them. For instance, the trio of Smith, Higdon, and Evans have gone over 100 yards this season six times total and two times a piece. They are very balanced and don't have a problem going to a different back if one struggles.