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Getting to know Michigan’s Week 6 opponent: Iowa Hawkeyes

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The undefeated Hawkeyes visit the Big House on Saturday.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan football got back on track last weekend against a middle school Rutgers, and it was just what the doctor ordered, especially now that the Wolverines have to play three of their next four games against top 25 opponents. It all starts this weekend at the Big House against the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0).

Both sides of the ball have looked good for Iowa, but let’s start with the offense. This thing starts and ends with quarterback Nate Stanley. The senior from Menomonie, Wisconsin has been dominant so far, completing 64.4 percent of his passes and throwing for 965 yards, 8 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Stanley has been one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten so far, and it’s clear Iowa’s successes are in large part due to him.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The running game, much like Michigan’s, features several guys. Junior Mekhi Sargent leads the committee with 54 carries, 299 yards and 2 touchdowns. Also featured in the run game include junior Toren Young (33 carries, 251 yards, 1 touchdown) and freshman Tyler Goodson (34 carries, 202 yards, 0 touchdowns).

Michigan will also have its hands full with a couple big-bodied wide receivers — 6-foot-1 junior Ihmir Marsette-Smith (15 catches, 254 yards, 3 touchdowns) and 6-foot-2 junior Brandon Smith (15 catches, 170 yards, 3 touchdowns). Marsette-Smith is also the kickoff return man, so he is a dangerous weapon for the Hawkeyes.

Former Wolverine Oliver Martin hasn’t had a giant impact with Iowa so far, catching just 5 balls for 28 yards and 1 touchdown.

Surprisingly, the Iowa tight ends have also not played much of a factor in the passing game this season. Junior Shaun Beyer is the leader of the group, with just 4 catches for 57 yards. The only other tight end with a catch this season is senior Nate Wieting (2 for 10 yards).

And then there’s the defense, which has also played extremely well in 2019 so far. The Iowa defense has allowed a mere 34 points through the Hawkeyes’ first four games. Granted, these games were against Middle Tennessee State, Iowa State, Rutgers and Miami (OH), but it is still a challenge to allow 8.5 points per game to anybody in college football.

The strength of the Iowa defense comes from the front seven, which is led by junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa. The soon-to-be NFL defender only has 7 total tackles so far, but still has 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 2 pass breakups and 5 quarterback hurries. He causes mayhem everywhere on the field — Jon Runyan Jr. is going to have a tall task this Saturday.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Mississippi State vs Iowa Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The linebackers have also been making plays for Iowa. Senior Kristian Welch already has 31 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack and 1 quarterback hurry. Meanwhile, sophomore Djimon Colbert has 23 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 1 interception and 2 pass breakups. As Stephen A. Smith would say, these guys are some baaaaaaaaad men, and are a big reason why Iowa has been able to, for the most part, shut down every opposing offense they’ve faced so far.

The Hawkeyes have 3 interceptions in 2019, with two of them coming from senior defensive back Michael Ojemudia, who is a native of Farmington Hills, Michigan. The 6-foot-1 corner also has 2 pass breakups to his name, along with 15 tackles. If there is one player in the defensive backfield Shea Patterson probably wouldn’t want to throw toward in this game, it’s Ojemudia.

The bottom line — this is going to be a tough game. Iowa is a very physical team, much like Wisconsin, and we all know how that game turned out. If the Wolverines don’t punch back when they get socked in the mouth — like at Camp Randall a couple weeks ago — it could get ugly in a hurry.

My advice? Punch back this time.