Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines got their first true test of the season last week, winning a game against Maryland Terrapins that was a little too close for comfort. For the first time this season, they will hit the road and play the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium for Big Noon Kickoff on FOX.
While Michigan is a double-digit favorite for the fifth time this season, this matchup should be a tough one against an Iowa team with a stout defense. Here are a few keys to making sure the Wolverines walk out of Kinnick undefeated.
Win the turnover battle
As has been the case for what feels like decades at this point, Iowa has a very talented defense. As our Trevor Woods mentioned earlier this week, the Hawkeyes boast the No. 6 total defense and the No. 1 scoring defense in the country.
In order for the Wolverines to win, it’s pivotal to win the turnover battle. Both J.J. McCarthy and C.J. Stokes fumbled in last week’s win, with Stokes’ fumble being recovered by Maryland and shifting the momentum in the game.
If Michigan can manage to take care of the ball and even force a turnover or two of its own, it dramatically increases its chances of victory.
Dictate the pace of the game and dominate time of possession
Defenses can be like small children: the easiest way to get them to calm down is to tire them out.
Iowa football has a certain brand about it: play solid defense, run the ball quite a bit, and eat up the clock to make the game as ugly as possible. Thanks to Michigan’s talented offensive line and the running ability of Blake Corum and McCarthy, the Wolverines have all the tools to beat the Hawkeyes at their own game.
If Iowa’s defense is breathing heavily in the fourth quarter, that should help Michigan run the ball down their throat to close it out.
Force Spencer Petras to try and be a hero
Our Dan Plocher said it best earlier this week — part of the reason Iowa’s offense hasn’t been great this year is because quarterback Spencer Petras is a textbook game manager who is not the kind of guy who will win you football games.
After losing two of the top pass rushers from last season to the NFL, Michigan’s front seven has played...well, like they lost two of the top pass rushers from last season. However, the depth and athleticism of the group can allow them to make life hell for opposing offenses, especially ones like Iowa’s.
The Wolverines need to throw the kitchen sink at Petras in this one. If Michigan’s defenders can pin their ears back and get to Petras early and often, that would then force him to win the game with his arm — and inevitably make mistakes under pressure.