Each week we scout Michigan's opponent. We'll start with the basics, and then explore some relevant match-ups. For those that want to know more, we'll sprinkle in a mixture of history, reflection, and philosophy for a comprehensive look.
Michigan (4-1) at Iowa (5-0)
(W) Northern Iowa 17-16
(W) at Iowa State 35-3
(W) Arizona 27-17
(W) at Penn State 21-10
(W) Arkansas State 24-21
(W) Western Michigan 31-7
(W) Notre Dame 38-34
(W) Eastern Michigan 45-17
(W) Indiana 36-33
(L) at Michigan State 26-20 (OT)
Iowa Players to Watch:
As the Wolverines watch film this week on the Iowa Hawkeyes, they will find a very fundamentally sound defense, a placid offense, but a team that has a knack for winning. Here are a few notes for your review:
- Iowa hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown in 33 quarters dating back to Nov'08
- Iowa's defense allows only 13.4 ppg, which is 10 best in college football
- Iowa's defense is 2nd in the country with 10 interceptions
Ask Penn State how good the Iowa defense is. After giving up a 79 yd TD on the opening play and a field goal on the next possession, the Hawkeye defense didn't allow Penn State to score the rest of the way. As the game wore on Iowa was slowly winning the war in the trenches, and by the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes forced a turnover on every Penn State possession.
Michigan Head Coach Rich Rodriguez understands what awaits his team after struggling to score most of the game against Michigan State.
Pat Angerer & Karl Klug (AP Photo by Charlie Neibergall)
"This may be the biggest challenge our guys have faced so far this year with the front seven of Iowa, particularly their front four," Rodriguez admitted. "Their linebackers are very good, but their front four are outstanding."
As a whole, the Iowa defense has given up only five touchdowns this season, all through the air. However if you're expecting the Hawkeyes to be vulnerable in the passing game, their secondary is very good at keeping their eyes on the ball or reading the opposing quarterback's eyes. They get good jumps and have taken advantage of mistakes made by the QB's. Tyler Sash (So. #9) leads with five of the team's ten interceptions. Granted, three of his interceptions made him a member of Super Bowl MVP Larry Brown's Hall of Fame for being in the right place at the right time, but Sash does know how to position himself. Sash also leads the team in passes broken-up.
As a group, the Hawkeyes are 4th in the NCAA in Pass Efficiency Defense, and Rodriguez knows why.
"They don't blitz a whole lot, but they pick their moments when they do. But they don't have to because they can get pressure with their front four. They'll play some man-to-man, but their zone coverage schemes, they don't get caught out of position."
After being off Michigan's schedule for the past two years, Iowa hasn't seen, up-close, Rodriguez's system. It won't be a routine week for the Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and the rest of the Hawkeye coaching staff.
"The thing that's weird is when you miss a team for two years and then get them back on the schedule, that's always a little bit strange and weird and we're going through that," Ferentz said. "That street runs both ways, I'm sure. But that part of it is. We've seen them on film the last couple of years and watched them from afar but now to be doing the research and that type of thing it's a little bit different."
Despite the film and the scouting reports, Ferentz doesn't believe he'll have to change his base defense.
"Philosophically it goes back to when we played Northwestern back in 2000. We came to the conclusion that as different as their attack was, we felt the best way to match up was to stand with our base personnel. Philosophically that's how we think, and we'll make our changes more on down and distance."
On the other hand, even Ferentz understands the wildcard is Tate Forcier. After beating rival Iowa State, the team watched Forcier's heroics in the Notre Dame game while driving back to Iowa City on the team bus.
"Number one, he's very aware, great presence out there, great feel and he is a playmaker. He can improvise, which is a sign of a good quarterback. He can get out of trouble with his feet and certainly can hurt you with his throwing and has done that. I think the most impressive thing is just his demeanor out there. Seems like he's totally under control, he'll improvise, but it seems he has a good knack, a good instinct, and that's what good quarterbacks have. I'm not sure you teach that but he certainly has done a good job."
Adrian Clayborn (AP Photo by Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa's Defensive Coordinator is Hazel Park, Michigan native, Norm Parker, a former coach at Michigan State and Eastern Michigan. Like many other D.C.'s this year, they'll want to throw a series of different looks, blitzes and general mayhem at a True Freshman signal caller. Nevertheless, Ferentz cautions that it could backfire.
"With this guy I'm not sure that's a good thing, because he seems to thrive on that situation, that circumstance," Ferentz said. "You better be careful with what you wish for with this quarterback because he's good; he's really good."
Michigan might be able to avoid Iowa's strengths of a good rush and good secondary vision by throwing quick hitters in space. The Wolverines may need their best games out of their receiving corps. Martavious Odoms (So. #9) and Kelvin Grady (Jr. #19) will need to have better concentration this week hanging on the ball and get some great downfield blocking from teammates to make first downs and big plays. That's easier said than done because the Hawkeyes have shown more on defense than the Spartans have so far. Five different defenders have been named to the Big Ten Player of the Week Awards.
On the injury front for the Iowa defense, cornerback Shaun Prater (So. #28) missed last week's game with a knee injury. Arkansas State had some limited success attacking his back-up. Prater has been cleared for practice this week, but it's undetermined how effective he'll be.
Injuries on offense can clearly be a reason why they haven't gelled as much as their defensive teammates. While the Hawkeye defense has only changed up at one corner position with the other ten spots remaining intact since opening weekend, the offense has only four position spots that haven't changed. In effect, their offense (10th in scoring in the Big 10) hasn't had any stability and for the most part the defense has bailed the team out.
Starting with the rushing attack, Jewel Hampton, who was supposed to replace last year's Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene, was lost for the year after an injury in the summer. Paki O'Meara started in the opener against Northern Iowa and lost his starting job by week #2. Today the rushing duties are shared between two freshmen. Adam Robinson (#32) and Brandon Wegher (#3) split time with Robinson carrying a little more. Robinson has four of the six team rushing touchdowns.
Ricky Stanzi (AP Photo by Carolyn Kaster)
At QB, Ricky Stanzi (Jr. # 12) is making his 15th consecutive start after winning the battle from Jake Christiansen, who has since transferred. At one time, Stanzi was incapable of making a play to win in the fourth quarter as Iowa kept losing games by three points or less in the first half of the 2008 season. That changed with Iowa's match-up with an undefeated Penn State. Since then Stanzi is capable of making a big pass or a big run when needed, but he still has a reputation for slow starts and his quarterback numbers aren't worth bragging about (8th in Big 10 Passing Efficiency, 10th in Total Offense). Stanzi also has thrown seven interceptions with two going back the distance for scores. Fans fear his lack of production will eventually cost the Hawkeyes, but right now Iowa is on a nine game winning streak. Stanzi eclipsed the 1000 yd mark last week and he doesn't have a favorite target as he has eight TD's on the year to seven different targets.
At receiver it's hard to comprehend, but Iowa hasn't had go-to receivers in years; however someone always steps up. Each week a different Hawkeye has led the team in receiving. Last week, it was Marvin McNutt (So. #7), who scored his first two career touchdowns and had a career high 121 yds. McNutt is the team's leading receiver, but has only started three games. No one else has more than one TD grab. Trey Stross (Sr. #86) is a solid #2, who caught his first touchdown last week as well.
There's been lots of speculation with last year's leading receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (Jr. #15). He hasn't started a game and was held out of the first half last week. The gossip is about practice habits, which Coach Ferentz has appeared to both confirm and deny this week.
The receivers are being coached by former Michigan coach Erik Campbell. "Soup" had been with the Wolverines as a player and as a coach for 13 seasons (1995-2007).
The Hawkeyes could also get a lift this week with the possible return of Tony Moeaki (Sr. #81). The tight end has missed the last three games. He is certainly a threat. Left Tackle Brian Bulaga (Jr. #79), a pre-season All-American who has been recovering with a thyroid condition, saw his first action since opening weekend, but according to Ferentz, was ‘rusty' against Arkansas State.
Keep in mind, that if the Hawkeyes improve offensively, it may seem easy to blame the Michigan defense, but Moeaki and Bulaga returning should certainly help their numbers.
FINAL NEWS AND NOTES
- Iowa hasn't won 10 in a row since 1923. They're going for #10 now.
- In Michigan's last trip to Iowa City in 2005, Michigan ended Iowa's school record 22 home game winning streak.
- Iowa has given up 3 pts in the third quarter. Michigan has given up only 6. Obviously both teams have made good defensive adjustments after halftime.
- Teams are 0 for 2 when attempting a fake kick on Iowa this season. Enough said.
- Iowa is 14-16 in the Red Zone 11TDS, so the offense makes it count when they get there.
- Michigan has won 12 of their last 13 regular season night games. Iowa is 3-3 at night at Kinnick Stadium.
ENJOY THE GAME!