Just How Good is Iowa's Defense Anyways?

We've all heard from everyone, including Spartan fans that you happened to pass on the street that one time, that the Michigan offensive machine and their key (read: only) cog Denard Robinson was on a collision course with doom when they reached the Big Ten, and "real" defenses.  True to the point, Michigan's victories have been thus far over mediocre opposition with borderline-terrible defenses:

Team

Total Defense
Nat. Rank

UConn

59

Notre Dame

83

BGSU

119

Indiana

94

MSU (L)

42

 

FWIW, Umass would be slotted at 109th yielding 440 yards per game.  So yeah, that's not good.  Iowa comes to Ann Arbor with the #4 ranked defense.

On the flip side of the coin, Michigan enters the game on Saturday with the #3 ranked offense, and with all the "they lost to the first real team they faced" chatter you're hearing, I think it's only fair to put Iowa to the same test.  Here is the strength of offense that Iowa's defense has faced to date:

Team

Total Offense
Nat. Rank

Iowa State

93

Arizona (L)

26

Ball State

104

Penn State

88

 

Iowa's 1-AA adventure was to go up against Eastern Illinois, who is averaging 251 yards per game; good enough for 119th if slotted into 1-A. 

Caveats, of course, for skewed statistics from having played a nationally dominant defense/offense exist on both sides:  these team's rankings would likely be higher if they hadn't had to play Iowa's defense or Michigan's offense depending on what you're looking at.  Just for fun, let's average these out, excising 1-aa rankings (even though it would help Michigan's case):

Average Strength of Defense Michigan has Played:  79.4

Average Strength of Offense Iowa has Played:  77.75

The two units have played virtually the same level of competition - weak - and have put together thus far stellar numbers.  However, for those inclined to believe that Iowa is going to absolutely lock down the Michigan offense, remember that Iowa hasn't really faced a "real offense" yet either.  They held Arizona to 366 total yards, which indeed is down from the 445 YPG they average.  Michigan went for 377 against Michigan State, which is up from 336 they usually allow.  In both games, turnovers were paramount to the defeat - Arizona returned an INT for a TD (also a kick for a TD), and Michigan State had 2 INT's in the endzone, which for a team leading the nation in redzone effeciency is paramount to giving them 7 points.

So while Iowa fans are cackling with glee (oh, they cackle alright...) at the prospect of their #4 ranked defense taking down an overrated Michigan offense, just remember that their defense, at least based on who they've played, might be just as overrated. Both teams lost when they faced a "real" counterpart; both teams lost primarily because of turnovers and lack of execution.  This, of course, means nothing once the game starts.  However, for those worried about the Iowa defense, remember that it may be made of just as much smoke and mirrors as they're claiming the Michigan offense is.  I wouldn't go around predicting a Michigan win or lose based on this information, but it's certainly something to throw into consideration.

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