KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa
SERIES: Michigan leads 40-12-4 (last meeting, 2010, Iowa 38-28)
RECORDS: Michigan 7-1, 3-1 Big 10; Iowa 5-3, 2-2 Big 10
POLLS: Michigan (No. 13 AP, No. 13 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Michigan 31-21
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Michigan: Be physical. Michigan's success is clearly linked to its ability to knock people off the line and run the football. When the Wolverine tailbacks are effective, then QB Denard Robinson becomes the scariest wild card in the country.
-- For Iowa: Getting a big rushing performance from RB Marcus Coker might help Iowa keep the ball out of the hands of Michigan QB Denard Robinson, who ranks 16th in total offense. Iowa's defense must slow Michigan's running attack.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Michigan hopes to have found its balance. In the recent win over Purdue, QB Denard Robinson rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown while completing 9-of-14 passes for 170 yards. In the same game, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint set career highs for carries (20) and rushing yards (170) and scored two touchdown runs. If Michigan keeps Robinson from being the focal point of the running attack and lets him pick his spots, he becomes a much more effective weapon and this becomes a very dangerous offense.
Michigan's defense has taken a significant hit with the recent knee injury suffered by junior S Jordan Kovacs, a fiery inspirational leader in that unit. Kovacs did not play in the recent win over Purdue and his status for the Iowa game is still in doubt. To keep as much experience as possible deep in the secondary, Michigan has moved senior CB Troy Woolfolk in to cover for Kovacs. The Michigan defense has produced an improved pass rush lately and the versatility at linebacker looks better, but expect Iowa to test that backfield, especially if Kovacs is still sidelined.
Iowa QB James Vandenberg has tossed 17 touchdowns against four interceptions but three of the miscues have come in Big Ten play. R Marcus Coker is 31 yards away from a 1,000-yard season and is on his way to being known as one of the program's top all-time running backs. WR Marvin McNutt has 858 receiving yards and is four yards away from setting a personal-high for receiving yards. The Hawkeyes hope to have second-leading receiver Keenan Davis (30 receptions) back after he missed the Minnesota contest.
Coach Kirk Ferentz continues to insist that Iowa's shaky run defense isn't only the fault of the defensive line. He and defensive coordinator Norm Parker are looking for answers by moving around the linebackers. Leading tackler James Morris has been moved outside and injury-prone Tyler Nielsen has been moved to the middle. Morris and the other outside backer, Christian Kirksey, share the team tackle lead with 76 apiece. Iowa's pass rush has also been subpar with 12 sacks -- four by DT Mike Daniels and three by DE Broderick Binns.
Wolverines: The trip to Iowa to face the Hawkeyes is only Michigan's third road game of the season. The Wolverines' only loss was at Michigan State. They won at Northwestern. ... Michigan has outscored its opponents 229-68 from the second quarter on and 135-49 in the second half. ... The Wolverines have gone over the 500-yard mark in three of their last four games. The 580 yards against Minnesota and 541 against Northwestern marked the first time since 1991 they had reached topped 500 yards in consecutive games against Big 10 opponents. ... Sophomore DE Nathan Brink made the first start of his career in the win over Purdue. ... LG Ricky Barnum, who missed the three previous games with an injured ankle, played against Purdue last week but had to leave the game when he re-injured the ankle. His status for the next game at Iowa is day-to-day. ... Freshman LB Desmond Morgan got the start against Purdue, replacing benched starter Brandin Hawthorne. Morgan led the Wolverines with nine tackles in the game.
Hawkeyes: Iowa has won the last two meetings with Michigan, but the Hawkeyes have never notched three straight victories over the Wolverines. Iowa is just 5-16-1 in 22 home games against Michigan. ... Iowa had failed to score just once in the red zone over the first seven games before going 3-for-6 in such situations in the loss to Minnesota. The Hawkeyes will seek to relocate their early-season magic inside the opponents' 20-yard line against Michigan, which leads the nation in red zone defense at 59.1 percent. Opponents have scored against Michigan on just 13 of 22 trips inside the red zone. ... Iowa must improve against the run to have a chance against Michigan. The Hawkeyes are giving up an average of 194.8 rushing yards in Big Ten play and rank 69th nationally for the season at 163.6 yards per game. Lowly Minnesota had 178 rushing yards and controlled the ball for all but about a minute-and-a-half of the final quarter. ... Iowa (has allowed more than 200 rushing yards in two of its four conference games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint -- He needs to follow up his career high rushing performance against Purdue (170 yards) with another solid day at Iowa. Consistency at the tailback spot has been missing for too long.
TE Kevin Koger -- Koger is a big, physical athlete who creates mismatch nightmares for the opposition. If Michigan gets Koger involved in the passing game early against the Hawkeyes, then it forces Iowa's hand and opens up lanes for QB Denard Robinson to show his skills.
S Troy Woolfolk -- One of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten before a rash of injuries limited his playing time, Woolfolk has moved to safety to cover for the injury-loss of S Jordan Kovacs. If Kovacs can't go at Iowa, pay close attention to how quickly Woolfolk picks up the coverages from the new position.
RB Marcus Coker -- Coming off a 252-yard performance against Minnesota that ranks as the third-best single-game rushing total in school history. Coker is only the fourth Iowa back with two career 200-yard performances and is 31 yards away from being the program's first 1,000-yard rusher since Shonn Greene totaled 1,850 yards in 2008.
WR Marvin McNutt -- He has topped 100 yards receiving in five of eight games and is just 212 yards away from surpassing Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (2,616 from 2007-10) as the school's leader in career receiving yardage. McNutt is averaging 17.9 yards per catch and has nine touchdowns, two shy of the school's single-season record.
CB Micah Hyde -- The athletic corner has three of Iowa's six interceptions, and his ballhawking skills will be in demand against Michigan QB Denard Robinson, who isn't the most polished thrower. Hyde is having a better season than more-hyped CB Shaun Prater.
S Jordan Kovacs (knee, questionable). OG Ricky Barnum (ankle, doubtful).
WR Keenan Davis (ankle, probable), DT Tom Nardo (ankle, questionable), LB Anthony Hitchens (knee, doubtful).
The TSX Files: U-M/Iowa Preview, Prediction
The Michigan Insider Top Stories
WATCH: Harbaugh gives Walker updateWatch as Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh addresses the status of true freshman running back Kareem Walker after dressing for the first time this season.
The Michigan Insider2:34 PM
Webblog: U-M's Top DL Targets Still in PlayMichigan added two important pieces to its defensive line puzzle in recent commitments Donovan Jeter and Kwity Paye, but several more targets remain in the cross hairs. That…
The Michigan Insider11:51 AM
Where's Michigan at Now with WR Nico Collins?At one time Michigan was the clear leader for elite wide receiver Nico Collins. Why did the Wolverines come back to the pack? He talks about that and much more with Scout here...
Scout Football7:25 AM
No. 6 OLB Willie Gay Decommits from Ole MisScout 100 linebacker Willie Gay has backed off his pledge to the Ole Miss Rebels. Gay committed to Ole Miss back in June, but he is now back on the market...
Scout Football5:48 AM