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Staff Predictions: Michigan vs. Iowa

The MnB staff members do their best to predict what is going to happen in this weekend’s game.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Championship-Iowa vs Michigan Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines will be tested like they haven’t been tested yet this season as they travel to Iowa City to take on the reigning Big Ten West champions — the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The staff at Maize n Brew rounded up their thoughts to provide this week’s roundtable.

The Wolverines were challenged last weekend by a legitimate opponent for the first time this season, and they showed some kinks in the armor. What concerns you the most after the game against Maryland?

Von Lozon: For me, it’s the lack of a pass rush. Losing Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo was a major talking point heading into the 2022 season, and for good reason. The Wolverines had one sack combined against both Hawaii and UConn, and only got pressure on the Terps last week when they put in their reserve quarterback. Iowa doesn’t have a quarterback who can roll out of the pocket quickly and extend plays, so if there is any game where Michigan SHOULD be able to force pressure on the opposing quarterback, it’s this one. Hopefully they get it together quick, because it’ll only get harder from here.

Zach Breininger: The lack of a consistent pass rush is what everyone’s talking about, but my primary concern lies with the rush defense. Maryland’s offensive line and running backs outmuscled the Michigan defense. It wasn’t until the Terps abandoned the run that Michigan’s defense locked in. Iowa is going to run the air out of the ball this Saturday, and Penn State will be itching to show off Nick Singleton next month. Jesse Minter better tighten things up or the Wolverines might be out of the Big Ten title chase before Sparty comes to town.

Dan Plocher: The play-calling and preparation. Neither side of the ball looked ready. The defense got bullied early by the rushing attack because they were set up to slow Taulia Tagovailoa. Meanwhile, the offense just expected to air it out against a mediocre Maryland secondary and took a while to adjust and get the rock to Blake Corum. It looked like the first real test of the season for not just the players, but this coaching staff as well.

David Woelkers: Honestly, what concerns me is how sluggish the defense looked at points when Maryland pushed the tempo. Things changed for the better after they adjusted coming out of halftime, but Michigan got lucky the Terrapins didn’t take the most out of what they were given in that first half. When they play a team like Ohio State that will crank the tempo and take advantage of those mistakes, what’s going to happen?

Kellen Voss: What concerns me the most is how much Michigan gave up in terms of the run game. Maryland does have some NFL linemen, but giving up 128 yards on the ground to what will probably be a mid-tier Big Ten team is a little disheartening. Hopefully they can right that ship this week.

Andrew Bailey: Offensive play-calling. It felt disjointed and off-beat. It would be like if Michael Bay and Martin Scorsese tried to co-direct a movie; certain parts would intertwine, but there would be no fluidity. Similar issues were experienced last season in the first four games so optimistically, these bumps can be worked through in due time.

This weekend will present another challenge — Michigan’s first road game of 2022. The Wolverines travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes, a place they have not won at since 2005. What is it about playing at Iowa that is so daunting?

Von Lozon: There is something I can’t quite put my finger on, but Kinnick is a weird place where weird things happen to top teams. There are a few places like that around college football, but Kinnick, in my opinion, is the funkiest of them all. The last time Michigan played there, it was a night game and the Hawkeyes won on a game-winning field goal. This time, it’s a noon kickoff, so that should help somewhat. But Iowa isn’t a team you ever take lightly, especially at Kinnick.

Zach Breininger: The pink locker room. Apparently, it has a lulling effect.

Dan Plocher: I think it’s their fans and the atmosphere. Iowa loves forcing turnovers and if it can get the crowd involved in doing so, it’s lights out for many opponents.

David Woelkers: I think Harbaugh said it best that it’s not so much a curse as it is Iowa being so technically and fundamentally sound. Even in years like this one where the talent isn’t there, the Hawkeyes can play the long game of waiting for you to do something dumb and snowballing it to an upset.

Kellen Voss: It doesn’t necessary have to do with Kinnick, but Iowa forces you to play their brand of football. Iowa’s strengths are talking points that college football pundits bring up when making fun of the Big Ten: they chew up the clock, they punt a lot, and they make the game relatively boring. Michigan has to use their speed on the outside to dictate the pace of this game.

Andrew Bailey: Iowa football is everything in that state because there are no professional teams in any sport, so the focus is aptly and solely on the Hawkeyes. Iowa State fans claim to exist, but they seem to be endangered at best.

Iowa’s defense is among the very best in college football. They have not allowed a rushing touchdown yet this year and have both a pick-six and a scoop-and-score already on their resume. What must J.J. McCarthy and company do, specifically, to put points on the board and limit mistakes?

Von Lozon: It sounds a lot easier than it is, but McCarthy cannot be careless with the football. For as much as I wanted McCarthy to be the guy at quarterback this season, one of the major things Cade McNamara was great at is limiting mistakes. McCarthy, in his lone game against good competition, fumbled twice, nearly threw a pick and took a sack when he stood in the pocket for too long. Luckily for him, none of those fumbles were lost, but Iowa has a defense that won’t miss an opportunity to recover the football.

Zach Breininger: McCarthy needs to make quicker decisions. He relied far too much on his legs last week, which nearly cost Michigan two possessions. Iowa feasts off misreads and tipped balls. McCarthy has to be more decisive with the rock if Michigan is going to find a rhythm on offense and keep Iowa off the scoreboard.

Dan Plocher: Put up points early and often. That’s why it got ugly last year in the Big Ten Championship. The Wolverines played mistake-free football and got some chunk plays right off the bat. If they achieve that again, it’s going to be really difficult for a putrid Iowa offense to keep up. I’d like to see some dump offs on the first drive to build McCarthy’s confidence before they air it out and take some chances down the field.

David Woelkers: The offensive line better be ready for a war. If Trevor Keegan is still out and Trente Jones isn’t consistent, that’s going to be two weak spots in the front five the Hawkeyes will tear apart.

Kellen Voss: Make the game easier, and get chunks of yards on first and second down. Additionally, you can’t let Iowa get the ball back and eat up the time on the clock. Methodical drives with big plays mixed in here or there should help lead Michigan to victory.

Andrew Bailey: Patiently take what they give you: whether that be over the top shots or three yards in a cloud of dust rushes. Patience and ball security are the name of the game, and when that look is finally right, STRIKE.

As we always do on these roundtables, give me one bold prediction for this weekend’s game.

Von Lozon: I think Iowa actually plays a decent offensive game this week, so my bold prediction is one of the Hawkeyes’ running backs — either Kaleb Johnson or Leshon Williams — runs for 100 yards and a score.

Zach Breininger: Michigan gets two interceptions and Iowa recovers two Michigan fumbles.

Dan Plocher: Michigan’s defense holds Iowa to less than 150 total yards. The Wolverines turn the ball over once or twice, but the defense picks them up as the Hawkeyes just can’t move the ball down the field with any consistency.

David Woelkers: Michigan is down at halftime.

Kellen Voss: Michigan’s defensive line wins this game and forces Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras to make a few mistakes of his own. Also, Eyabi Okie gets a few sacks wearing No. 18, the same number as the Amani Toomer jersey the late Coolio rocked in the 90s (RIP to a lyrical legend, hope he’s chilling in a Gangsta’s Paradise)

Andrew Bailey: Jaylen Harrell finishes with a career day: 2 sacks, 2 TFL’s, 5 total tackles.

What is your score prediction for Michigan vs. Iowa?

Von Lozon: I think the oddsmakers are kind of spot on as far as the total in this one goes. It is currently set at 42.5, so they are expecting a low-scoring game. I agree and, I don’t mean to be the Scrooge of the group, but I have a slight smell of an upset. It isn’t a full-on stench, but I could see Iowa winning this one straight up. With that said, I’m still taking Michigan to win a really close game, 20-14.

Zach Breininger: Michigan, 24-13. McCarthy finds Andrel Anthony on a deep post late in the third quarter to open things up.

Dan Plocher: I’ll take Michigan, 20-7. We don’t get a dominant performance from the Wolverines’ offense for a second consecutive week, which strikes some further concern. But they pull away with a late touchdown and leave Iowa City with a win.

David Woelkers: 24-13 Michigan, but it’ll be a one score game until the Wolverines get a game-sealing touchdown in the final five minutes.

Kellen Voss: Michigan wins, 24-10. Iowa keeps it close most of the game, then Michigan rips off two key touchdowns in the second half, with at least one being a big play for Roman Wilson.

Andrew Bailey: This game is going to be a rock fight, but Michigan is too balanced on each side of the ball to fall to a team this reliant on their defense to save them. Wolverines, 24-13.