Iowa finished the regular season 10-2 overall and 7-2 in conference play. The Hawkeyes started the season 6-0 and found themselves at No. 2 in the AP Poll before falling twice in the back half of the season.
Iowa is particularly strong on defense, ranking third in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes have a stellar run defense by giving up just 106 yards on the ground per game. That will present an interesting matchup for Michigan, which has been dominant in the run game all year long.
Michigan is a pretty big favorite in this game, with the line currently sitting at -10.5 in favor of the Wolverines, but the Michigan players know nothing will come easy against a talented Iowa team.
“They’ve been doing the same things for years, they’re traditional,” tight end Luke Schoonmaker said of the Hawkeye’s defense. “Those guys work hard at what they do. They’ve had the coaches for awhile to do it, they all do their jobs well.”
Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith noted a specific player on the Iowa offensive line who stands out, center Tyler Linderbaum.
“Their center is real athletic,” Smith said. “Serious athlete, tough guy, and he just knows the game. You can tell that he’s comfortable out there. He’s comfortable snapping and blocking. He’s comfortable with doing everything they ask him to do over there. He does a great job.”
Wide receiver Cornelius Johnson added that this is a game he expects the Hawkeyes to have some extra fuel in the form of energy drinks and smelling salts.
“You can just see that overall they’re a really well-coached team,” Johnson said. “They take a lot of pride in practice. It’s going to be one of those games where they’re going to be juiced up on energy drinks and smelling salts and we’ve got to make sure that we come in and take advantage of whatever we can and make sure we’re locked in and ready to run.”
Johnson went on to note he partakes in energy drinks and smelling salts as well on occasion.
“I only drink energy drinks on Wednesdays, and then I’ll sniff some smelling salts right before we run out of the tunnel.” Johnson said.
A game full of energy drinks and smelling salts with a championship on the line. Does it get any better? Saturday night can’t come soon enough.