GAME NOTES: The 15th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes take to the road in Big Ten play this weekend, as they invade Ann Arbor to tangle with the Michigan Wolverines.
Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes opened up conference play in impressive fashion two weeks ago, making light work of Penn State in Iowa City, 24-3. The victory was the second straight for the Hawkeyes, whose only loss has come to nationally-ranked Arizona in week number three. The Hawkeyes were idle this past weekend, giving the team additional time to prepare for Michigan.
The Wolverines also only have one loss on the season, but that came last week to rival Michigan State by a score of 34-17. Prior to that, Rich Rodriguez's squad had reeled off five straight wins, mostly on the legs and arm of Heisman frontrunner Denard Robinson.
Rodriguez knows there was an opportunity to win the game against Michigan State.
"We hurt ourselves with a couple of interceptions, and there were definitely some points down there. It's the same old thing: you ought to be able to stop them running when you know they're going to run. We can't do that right now, and we've got to figure it out and get better for next week."
This marks the 56th all-time meeting between these two programs, with Michigan holding a sizeable 40-11-4 all-time advantage. The two schools however, have split the last six meetings, with Iowa claiming a 30-28 victory in Iowa City last year.
The Hawkeyes bring a balanced attack into Ann Arbor, averaging 172.2 yards per game rushing the football, and an additional 254.2 yards passing.
Quarterback Rick Stanzi has played well under center, completing 67.8 percent of his pass attempts, for 1,226 yards, with 10 TDs against just two INTs. His top target is Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who has hauled in 21 balls, for 334 yards and four TDs.
The ground attack is paced by tailback Adam Robinson. He is netting almost five yards per carry and nearly 100 yards per game (96.0) and is responsible for six of the team's nine rushing TDs to date.
While the Hawkeyes have been able to move the chains on the ground, it has been a futile venture for opponents trying to do the same. Iowa ranks second nationally in rush defense (63.2 ypg) and is the only team in the country that hasn't allowed a rushing score in 2010. An ailing Jeff Tarpinian leads the team in tackles (32), although he played sparingly against Penn State. Fellow LB Jeremiha Hunter is next in line with 29 tackles. Rush end Adrian Clayborn (25 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, one sack) and tackle Mike Daniels (19 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, 3.0 sacks) provide strong play up front.
As good as the Iowa defense has been, Ferentz knows the challenge of trying to stop Michigan's Heisman hopeful.
"He's an excellent football player, and I'm guessing what they hoped to get from him when they recruited him is what they've seen happen this year. He's a very dynamic football player, very explosive player, and with that offense that they give you, it presents an awful lot of challenges. They try to spread the field and basically have an extra man on the field because they've got a guy that can not only throw it but he can run the ball. He's very dangerous. It really makes it a challenge for you defensively when you play a team like this, and that's kind of what we're looking at here."
The Wolverines lost for the first time this season against the Spartans last weekend, but look for a more spirited outing this week. While Iowa has successfully defended the run this season, the Hawkeyes will have their hands full with Michigan's Heisman hopeful. Just a sophomore, Robinson has already rushed for 991 yards (165.2 ypg) and nine TDs, while passing for 1,223 yards and eight more scores. Wideout Roy Roundtree has been the biggest benefactor down the field, leading Michigan in receptions (31) and receiving yards (385), with two TDs.
The Wolverines have struggled at times on the defensive side of the football, with opponents averaging 26.8 ppg and a whopping 450.7 yards of total offense. Pass defense has been particularly suspect, with foes netting just over 300 yards per game through the air.
Senior LB Jonas Mouton leads the way with 56 total tackles. He also has five TFLs, one sack and two INTs to his credit. Strong safety Jordan Kovacs is a close second with 53 stops and has four TFLs and one INT on the year.
This is strength against strength with Robinson attempting to slash through a stout Iowa run defense. While Michigan's superstar will have his moments, the Wolverines will struggle once again defensively, leading to a big road win for the Hawkeyes.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 24, Michigan 20