Michigan Preview

Iowa faces its biggest challenge of the year this Saturday as #8 Michigan rolls into town. The storied Wolverines are 5-1 on the year, and are the only undefeated team in the conference. To say that a win would go a long way in impressing the nation is an understatement.

Iowa will be led by quarterback Kyle McCann, whose success on the field is absolutely essential to a Hawkeye victory. He has thrown 8 interceptions in six games, and 6 of those picks came in Iowa's two losses. McCann cannot give up the ball against Michigan with any regularity, as the Wolverines are talented enough to punish the Hawkeyes for every turnover. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr doesn't think that will happen, as he said, "McCann makes good decisions and they aren't going to beat themselves." Michigan's John Navarre is only as good as his receivers play, and so far, that's been pretty good. Marquise Walker leads the conference in receptions, with 43 catches for 587 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Wolverines have a lot of different ways to gain yardage and get in the end zone, so the Iowa defense faces a big challenge.

Ladell Betts and the Iowa ground game had unquestionably their best day of the year against Indiana. The offensive line, which is about as healthy as it has been since the first week of play, dominated the Hoosier line and allowed Betts to take on the linebackers and secondary. Betts, who is also about as healthy as he's been since Week 1, was a wrecking ball, more often carrying tacklers than running past them. When the dust settles, Betts had his best conference rushing output of his career, with 172 yards on just 22 carries. 98 of those yards came in the first half, after just 9 carries. Whether they can come close to duplicating those stats against a brutal Michigan run defense remains to be seen. The Wolverines have yet to give up 75 yards in the ground through their past 5 games, and their run defense is third best in the nation. Nonetheless, Michigan DE Dan Rumishek is very cautious to say that the Iowa running game can be shut down. "They're going to try to establish a running game, and if they do, then we're going to be in for a dogfight at Iowa," he said. "If we can stop the run, that's great, but we know that Iowa's not going to give up on it." It is safe to say that the keys for Iowa's success on offense are the smart play of Kyle McCann and a productive running game.

Iowa's defense also faces a tall order against Michigan. Although the Hawkeyes are 39th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game, and 13th in overall yardage allowed, the past 2 games have shown a noticeable amount of sloppiness and missed tackling on the Hawkeyes' part. Granted, TJ Duckett and Antwaan Randle-El have their ways of breaking tackles against just about everybody, but the Iowa defense cannot afford to let bruising tailback BJ Askew run free. To complicate matters, Askew is a good receiving back, with 19 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown, good enough for 2nd on the team in receiving.

Unfortunately for Iowa's defense, defensive tackle Jerry Montgomery will be a game-time decision, as his ankle is not up to par yet. Expect to see Jared Clauss start again. "Overall," said Coach Ferentz, "our team is sore. It's what you expect." Luckily, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Bob Sanders is healthy, and he will be ready and willing to dish out about two dozen more tackles against the Wolverines. Backup guard Andy Lightfoot is still hurting, and he will probably not play. The starters on the line, with tackles Robert Gallery and David Porter, guards Eric Steinbach and Alonzo Cunningham, and center Bruce Nelson, are all healthy and ready to take on a stiff defense.

The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 40's under sunny skies. Game time is 2:30 CST, and ABC will pick it up for regional coverage.

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