Michigan football faces another massive challenge in its 2019 redemption tour to help get its season back on track when they host the 14th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes at home on Saturday afternoon. This one is the first in a stretch where the Wolverines play a gauntlet schedule in October with games against No. 14 Iowa, No. 12 Penn State and No. 9 Notre Dame all before the calendar turns over to November. With one embarrassing loss already on the schedule in Madison a few weeks ago, if there’s a time to get it turned around and prove that you’re for real, that would be now.
Despite an inconsistent offensive attack the first few weeks of the year, the Josh Gattis-coordinated attack broke out last week against Rutgers in a 52-0 trouncing, racking up a season-high 476 yards of total offense. Shea Patterson and the passing game got back on track and the Wolverines’ wide receiving corps might be the biggest advantage they have on paper heading into this game.
The biggest challenge comes in the trenches, as Iowa features first and second day NFL talent on both sides of the ball with a pair of talented offensive lineman in Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs, as well as a disruptive force to account for on defense in AJ Epenesa. Michigan in the trenches on both sides of the ball has been able to be pushed around. The Hawkeyes on the ground average 217.5 rushing yards per game and have held the ball an average of 36 minutes per contest.
Michigan has struggled with Iowa overall in recent meetings, as the Kirk Ferentz-coached program has gone 5-1 over the last six meetings against Michigan and has won the last two, including the heartbreaker at Kinnick in 2016, where the No. 2 ranked Wolveirnes lost 14-13 on a last second field goal.
Michigan wins if: They can play another game of near mistake-free football and the offense is able to put some scoring drives together. The run game is a concern and this probably is not the week it gets going, but if they can find a way to piece an efficient offensive gameplan together and hit on their big play opportunities, they might be in good shape here. Defensively, getting off the field on third down and at least holding your own at the line of scrimmage will be huge. We know they have deficiencies in the middle of the defensive line. They simply need those guys to hold up and counterpunch to be able to feel good about this game.
Iowa wins if: They are able to control the line of scrimmage and keep Michigan’s offense off the field, whether it be by time of possession or the defense forcing punts and turnovers. Nate Stanley has a reputation of not being a big-game quarterback, so him shedding that label and helping manage his team to a win will be critical. If Michigan cannot stop the run and is getting punched in the mouth, this might be as frustrating as the Army game at best and at worst...well, you already know.
If this game were played on the road or on a neutral field, Iowa probably is favored here, but the Wolverines are being given the slight edge given the fact they are at home. The betting lines opened up at Wolverines -7 earlier this week, but has been bet all the way down to Wolverines -3.5. This is a different team at home and it may be a stressful outing, but that should be just enough to help Michigan squeak by, but it probably will not do a lot to alleviate concerns about this team moving forward. However, they’ll take the win and advance.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Iowa 23
Teams: No. 14 Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0 B1G) at No. 19 Michigan Wolverines (3-1)
Date: Oct. 5, 2019
Location: Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Radio: 950 AM in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, see affiliate stations here
Spread: Michigan -3.5, over/under set at 47.5 points
- Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt and Jenny Taft will be on the television call of the game for FOX.
- Michigan holds a 41-15-4 all-time record in the series against Iowa, though the Hawkeyes have won five of the last six meetings and the last two overall.
- Michigan has a 23-5-3 record against Iowa at Michigan Stadium. However, they are 3-4-1 at home in the series when both teams are ranked.
- Michigan has won 20 of its last 24 games on homecoming and 44 of their last 51 dating back to the 1968 season. Harbaugh is 4-0 on homecoming at Michigan.
- For the bettors out there, the Wolverines are 1-3 against the spread this season. Maybe do not bet on them. Like, ever.