Jon Miller here, just wanted to add a few words on Marty Gallagher. Marty is an extremely talented writer with an amazing passion for sports in the state of Iowa. We are incredibly fortunate to have him as a part of the HawkeyeNation.com and Hawkeye Nation, the magazine, team. I hope you enjoy reading his insight and analysis as much as I do. His pre-game previews are very solid, as he breaks down the units as they will square off on the field. Now, on with the preview!
Iowa run offense vs. Michigan run defense: The Hawkeyes will look to run the ball early and often—if they can—against the Wolverines. First of all, it's the best way for the Hawkeyes to set up their passing game. Second, it's the safe route. Michigan native Fred Russell is leading Iowa with 616 yards and a 5.6-yard average per carry. I'm guessing Russell will get 20+ touches on Saturday and Iowa will need him to stay healthy.
In Michigan's only loss (at Oregon), the Wolverines gave up 127 yards on the ground, but only a 2.8-yard average per carry. Last week, Indiana averaged 2.3 yards per rush against them. The Hawkeyes' offensive line is going to need to step it up big time on Saturday for Iowa to consistently move the ball on the ground. Advantage: PUSH.
Iowa pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense: No Dallas Clark. No C.J. Jones. No Maurice Brown. No Ed Hinkel. And on and on it goes. Not many Iowa fans would have figured Ramon Ochoa would be the #1 receiving option for the Hawks against Michigan this fall.
The Hawkeyes need to do several things to be successful in the air against the Wolverines:
- The line must protect Chandler…and the senior QB must stand in against some heat.
- Any shotgun snaps must be "completed" without incident.
- Two of the freshmen receivers must make some plays. (How about Calvin Davis and James Townsend?)
- The tight end and/or fullback need to be utilized in order to keep the defense honest. Champ Davis anyone?
- I've been hoping to see Russell as a receiver out of the backfield for a few weeks. Hopefully, the Hawks will find more ways to get their most dangerous option the ball in a few different ways.
Michigan run offense vs. Iowa run defense: Chris Perry has run for 687 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns already this season. However, I don't think Norm Parker is going to allow the Wolverines' Heisman Trophy candidate to run wild. The smart money says Parker will have a scheme set up forcing John Navarre to beat the Hawkeyes. Advantage: IOWA.
Michigan pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense: Navarre has completed 55% of his passes for 1,101 yards, with nine TDs and five interceptions…good for a 123.4 quarterback rating. Navarre led the Wolverines to a victory two years ago at Kinnick Stadium, completing some big passes to Marquis Walker. Now, Navarre's top threat is Braylon Edwards.
Iowa will be doing everything it can to put a ton of pressure on Navarre. Michigan's offensive line is much better than it was a year ago, but a key for the Hawks is whether they can force Navarre to make decisions more quickly than he would like…and to create at least two turnovers. Look for Howard Hodges and Jared Clauss to pick up a couple of sacks apiece…and Sean Considine will make a huge interception. Advantage: PUSH.
Special Teams: Nate Kaeding, David Bradley and Company have done a very good job again this season, but this game might call for a big play or two on special teams…much like last season. The Hawks are due to return a kick or a punt for a score. Special teams is definitely a strength that Iowa will need to take advantage of somehow in the match-up against Michigan. Advantage: IOWA.
Coaching: Kirk Ferentz has turned the Hawkeye program around. He was named the National Coach of the Year in 2002. Lloyd Carr is 80-24 (77%) in his ninth season at Michigan. Carr's 1997 team won the national title. Advantage: PUSH.
Intangibles: Iowa will be extremely fired up, coming off a disappointing loss at East Lansing a week ago. This is also the Hawkeyes' Homecoming game, so the crowd should be as loud and wild as ever. On the other hand, Michigan is NOT happy about the 34-9 butt-whoopin' it got from Iowa last fall in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines want to dish out a little payback. Plus, Michigan will play the "disrespect" card about being Iowa's Homecoming opponent.
The Hawkeyes have the advantage of winning battles of great defenses against Michigan in the past. In 1981, Tom Nichol booted three field goals in Ann Arbor to give Iowa a 9-7 win. In 1985, Rob Houghtlin nailed the game-winner as #1 Iowa defeated Michigan, 12-10. Advantage: PUSH.
PREDICTION: It will take a good start for Iowa this Saturday as the offense needs a shot in the arm. A little confidence and momentum could go a long way in this game, considering how strong both teams are defensively. Two factors will determine the outcome…
- Turnovers. (Iowa needs to be at least a +2.)
- Special Teams. (Iowa needs at least one big play.)
Russell will total over 150 yards of total offense and Kaeding will boot a game-winning field goal in the last couple of minutes. FINAL: IOWA 23, MICHIGAN 21.
Jon Miller's Prediction: Iowa 20, Michigan 17
On the season, Marty and Jon are 4-1 with their Iowa game by game predictions, straight up. The lone miss on their record came last week at Michigan State, as each of them picked the Hawkeyes to win.
Since the start of the 2001 season, Miller is 25-4 in his weekly Hawkeye picks. The misses: Miller picked Iowa to beat Michigan and Iowa State in 2001, USC in 2002 and MSU in 2003.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org)