No. 4 Michigan (4-0) will travel to Iowa City on Saturday for its first away game of the season. The Wolverines will take on the Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1) and the maize and blue hold a 43-15-4 all-time record against Iowa.
The last time the two teams squared off against each other was last year in the Big Ten Championship Game where Michigan handled Iowa, 42-3.
But, Michigan will be playing in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday where strange things are known to happen. The Wolverines have lost four-straight games when playing in Iowa City. The last time Michigan played at Iowa was back in 2016 when No. 3 Michigan lost on a last-second field goal, 14-13.
Going back to 2008, Iowa has knocked off five of the last six AP top-5 teams.
The Wolverines are looking to end their losing streak to Iowa on Saturday and the maize and blue have the team to do it, especially with the Jekyll and Hyde team that Iowa presents.
Here is how the Iowa offense and the Michigan defense stack up with the rest of the country:
Iowa scoring offense: 120th (17 points-per-game)
Michigan scoring defense: Seventh (11 points-per-game)
Iowa rushing offense: 116th (101.5 yards-per-game)
Michigan rushing defense: 35th (109 yards-per-game_
Iowa passing offense: 124th (131 yards-per-game)
Michigan passing defense: fourth (135.8 yards-per-game)
Iowa total offense: 131st (232.5 yards-per-game)
Michigan total defense: 19th (489 yards-per-game)
Statistically, this is a bad matchup for the Iowa offense. With that being said, Iowa has scored 27 points in back-to-back games against Nevada and Rutgers. Though the defense scored two touchdowns against Rutgers, so the final score of 27 looks misleading for the Iowa offense.
Kirk Ferentz continues to stick with quarterback Spencer Petras. Through four games, Petras has completed a meager 51.1% of his passes. He averages 5.6 yards-per-attempt, and Petras has one touchdown compared to two interceptions. He also holds a 97.1 QB rating.
Petras is without his No. 1 wide receiver Keagan Johnson due to an injury, but he does return tight end Sam LaPorta. LaPorta is someone that Michigan fans probably remember because he was the only source of offense last year during the Big Ten title game. LaPorta leads the team with 16 receptions for 154 yards. The only other player that has double-digit receptions would be Arland Bruce IV. He has 10 catches for 132 yards and the only touchdown reception of the season.
The Wolverines' passing defense has been strong this season, as the numbers may suggest. Michigan may not have faced much competition in the first three games of the year, but the Wolverines had a great challenge in Week 4 against Maryland and Taulia Tagovailoa. He threw for his season-low 207 yards last week against Michigan. The trio of Gemon Green, DJ Turner, and Mike Sainristil have been great in pass coverage. Plus the trio of safties that the Wolverines possess will make it difficult for Petras to find much going in the passing game.
The Hawkeyes will want to get the running attack rolling if they want to keep the sticks moving. Iowa has three different running backs that can tote the rock. Sophomore Leshon Williams leads the team with 49 carries and he has 170 yards on the ground. But it's true freshman Kaleb Johnson that has the most rushing yards. Johnson has carried the ball 29 times for 174 yards and two scores. The third back for Iowa would be Gavin Williams who has 84 yards on 25 carries.
The Michigan run defense has been mostly good this season despite allowing Maryland to rush for four yards-per-carry last week. The Wolverines' front four were getting pushed by an experienced Maryland offensive line. But the Iowa offensive line is not getting much love from Pro Football Focus. PFF gives Iowa a 54.7 grade for run blocking with ranks it 95th.
Now, let's flip the field here and look at the Michigan offense compared to the Iowa defense and how both stack up with the rest of the country.
Michigan scoring offense: second (50 points-per-game)
Iowa scoring defense: first (5.8 points-per-game)
Michigan rushing offense: 11th (234.2 yards-per-game)
Iowa rushing defense: sixth (73 yards-per-game)
Michigan passing offense: 60th (254.8 yards-per-game)
Iowa passing defense: 14th (163.3 yards-per-game)
Michigan total offense: 19th (489 yards-per-game)
Iowa total defense: sixth (236.3 yards-per-game)
J.J. McCarthy will be starting his third career game and his first road game on Saturday against Iowa. Through four games this season, McCarthy has thrown for 693 yards and five scores. He has completed 80% of his passes and has a phenomenal QB rating of 204.5. His worst outing came last week against Maryland, but he still completed 69% of his throws and was turnover-free with two passing touchdowns.
Running back Blake Corum continues to surge at a high level. Last week vs. Maryland he rushed the ball 30 times for 243 yards and two scores. Through four games he has 478 yards and he leads the entire country with nine rushing touchdowns. His backup Donovan Edwards has been out the past two games due to an injury, and it would be pretty big for Michigan if he could return for Iowa.
The Wolverines have a super deep receiving corps. Ronnie Bell has emerged as the go-to guy and he leads the team with 17 receptions, 253 yards, and one score. Roman Wilson is right behind him with 196 yards on eight receptions and he leads the team with three receiving scores. Tight end Luke Schoonmaker and receiver Cornelius Johnson is tied for third on the team with 117 yards.
The Iowa defense is pretty loaded at every position and this is going to be arguably the biggest challenge of the entire season for the Michigan offense. Linebacker Jestin Jacobs is out for the season, but at Iowa it just reloads.
The Hawkeyes have recorded two safety's and two defensive scores so far this season.
The heart of this Iowa defense is linebacker Jack Campbell. He leads the team with 39 tackles and linebacker Seth Benson is second with 30. The Hawkeyes' linebackers do a great job of getting downfield and penetrating the line to stop the run. The Michigan offensive line will have its hands full with the Iowa front seven.
Iowa has generated 12 sacks through four games this season. Sophomore Lukas Van Ness leads the team with three of them.
In the secondary, Iowa has recorded five interceptions through five games. Sophomore Cooper DeJean is on a three-game interception streak and just last week he returned one for a touchdown. DeJean is also third on the team with 24 tackles. Another name to watch out for in the secondary is Riley Moss. Moss is a senior and he is fifth on the team with 20 tackles.
The Iowa offense has been dreadful, but it's winning games because of the havoc the defense presents. The Hawkeyes are hoping to spook McCarthy and the Michigan offense to generate a few turnovers to get some easy scores.
The key for Michigan is going to be playing clean football for 60 minutes.
The game can be seen on FOX at noon EDT. See the next page for our staff predictions
WolverinesWire staff writers Isaiah Hole and Trent Knoop will share their thoughts on the game, two soft predictions, one bold prediction and the final score.
The Wolverines scraped out a win over Maryland last week, and the test gets tougher this week with a trip to Iowa City. I remember going in 2016, and certainly, no one expected the unranked Hawkeyes to pull that one off. Especially when the maize and blue were up 10-0.
Last week, J.J. McCarthy had his worst performance to date, and it was still quite good, as he completed 69.2% of his passes and threw for 220 yards. Yards will come at a premium this week, but we've seen Michigan do work against Iowa - oh - six games ago.
For me, the big question is how healthy will Michigan be? Could the Wolverines get Donovan Edwards and Trevor Keegan back? The expectation is, yes, both could be back, and that could spell the difference between being in a dogfight and a big-time win. Iowa has nothing to write home about offensively, but its defense - make a mistake, and it'll cost you. That's why Michigan needs as much offensive firepower as it can get. Iowa can't account for everybody. And if J.J. McCarthy can take what he learned from the Maryland game and apply it, things should go very well for the maize and blue. If he doesn't, premature talk about a failure of a season will commence, despite many having Michigan losing this game in the preseason.
I expect Michigan to do like it did last year, and at least attempt to jump out to an early lead and force Iowa's offense to come back.
Iowa sells out and holds the run game to under 100 yards
However, J.J. McCarthy gets over 250-yards passing
Michigan holds Iowa's offense to under 120 yards of offense
-Final score prediction
Michigan 31, Iowa 10
Obviously, Kinnick Stadium and the atmosphere is brutal for opposing teams to play at. That's why the saying is 'where top five teams go to die'. But I just don't see it happening this time for a couple of reasons.
Michigan and Iowa aren't drastically different teams from December of 2021 when the Wolverines throttled the Hawkeyes. Yeah, Michigan lost some major defensive players, but the Michigan offense is arguably better this year with J.J. McCarthy at the helm and the Wolverines' defense has been really good to start 2022 - even against the Maryland potent passing attack.
The second reason is because the Iowa offense is really bad to put it simply. The Hawkeyes have struggled to score against lesser teams and Michigan is going to be the biggest challenge defensively that Iowa has seen all season to date. If Iowa has already struggled to score and gain yards, what makes anyone think it can do so against a top 15 defense that Michigan has?
To me, this game strictly comes down to Michigan playing smart. If the Wolverines go out there and play backyard football and turn the ball over then Iowa has a legit chance to win, but if the Wolverines can play turnover-free football and get points when they're able to, then I don't think Iowa has the firepower to win the game. This feels like a game where Michigan only needs 17 or more points to win.
Michigan finally gets pressure on the quarterback and records four sacks.
J.J. McCarthy throws for two touchdowns
Because J.J. McCarthy is throwing the ball well, Blake Corum is able to rush for 150 yards.
Final score prediction
Michigan 24, Iowa 9
Michigan vs. Iowa: Three keys to a Michigan football victory
Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire