Kinnick Stadium will host a rematch of the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday as the Michigan Wolverines head to Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes. Both teams have seen some dramatic shifts on both sides of the ball as Iowa lost Tyler Goodson, their leading rusher from a season ago. Meanwhile, the Wolverines have a new quarterback, and a defense that looked far less dominant in their Big Ten opener against Maryland than a season ago throughout conference play.
Michigan are road favorites, but the Hawkeyes are very much a threat to the Wolverines’ championship aspirations. Three players in particular could stand out and change the course of this game. Let’s take a look at who could be the game wreckers this week on the Iowa side.
TE Sam LaPorta
The Iowa offense has been anemic this season, struggling to move the ball in any capacity. Spencer Petras has also been a typical Iowa quarterback — not the kind of guy that is going to win you football games. So when you have to rely on his arm to win you a game, things get a little shaky. But he can rely on Sam LaPorta to be his most consistent option.
If the Hawkeyes are going to win this game, they need to make it ugly, and LaPorta will need to have a strong performance. He is Petras’ favorite option with 16 receptions for 154 yards through the first three weeks of the season. This deep ball against Rutgers last week is the highlight of the Hawkeyes’ offense this season:
SPENCER PETRAS WHAT A BALL TO SAM LAPORTA IOWA IS IN BUSINESS pic.twitter.com/iUDJXzt33k— SuperHawkeyeFan (@superhawkeyefan) September 25, 2022
Last season, LaPorta led Big Ten tight ends in receptions, yards, yards after the catch and catches of 15+ yards, according to Pro Football Focus. He is by far Iowa’s most dangerous weapon on offense, and it isn’t even close.
LB Jack Campbell
Last season, Campbell finished second in the Big Ten with 143 tackles. He eats up the running game and is excellent on the pass rush as well. He was one of the top five defensive players in the Big Ten heading into this season and was a second-team All-American last season by some outlets.
Campbell is a huge reason why this defense has been as good as it has been. His 38 tackles in the first four weeks ranks third in the Big Ten so far this season. He helped the Hawkeyes win an ugly game against South Dakota State in Week 1 with one of the two safeties in the game for the defense:
Campbell is the Hawkeyes’ best player and entering his fourth season as a starter, he has the experience to help this Iowa defense slow down most offenses in college football. Finding him on the second level will be a focal point for this offensive line as Michigan looks to move the ball on the ground this week.
DB Cooper DeJean
I don’t know how the Hawkeyes do it, but every year they seem to have a new ballhawk in the secondary. This season it is Cooper DeJean, a former three-star who had only three Division I offers when he committed to Iowa.
Now he is making a lot of people regret not giving him a chance. In his first season as a starter, the sophomore has intercepted a ball in three consecutive games, including a pick-six last week against Rutgers:
Cooper DeJean makes it look like a video game, so here’s this pic.twitter.com/am0XCYfGRf— Slater (@SlaterKinnick_) September 25, 2022
The Hawkeyes thrive on turnovers. Last season, they led the conference with 28 takeaways, 25 being interceptions. Thanks to DeJean, they are off to a fast start to replicate that by already forcing seven turnovers, two safeties and a blocked punt in their first four games.