Who's got the edge? Position-by-position breakdown of Michigan-Iowa
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan hasn't beaten Iowa in six years, its longest drought against any Big Ten team.
It should have a more manageable time this year.
The No. 23 Wolverines (7-3, 5-1) are a 20-point favorite for Saturday's game against Iowa (4-6, 2-4), and with good reason. They hold matchup advantages all over the field.
A closer look:
It's been no Denard, no problem for Michigan. The offense hasn't skipped a beat the past two weeks with Devin Gardner, who has passed for two of the Wolverines' three best throwing days of the season. Michigan scored 73 points and 10 touchdowns the past two weeks. It had zero touchdowns in Robinson's final six quarters. Iowa's James Vandenberg was expected to be one of the league's top passers this year, but the Hawkeyes rank last in pass efficiency -- yes, worse than Illinois, worse than Michigan State. Advantage: Michigan
Fitz Toussaint showed some glimpses last week of emerging from the abyss, rolling up a season-best 92 yards. He averages 53.7 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. One thing that separates Michigan from Iowa is consistency, as the Hawkeyes have been blistered by attrition and turnover at tailback. Latest starter Mark Weisman has battled ankle and groin injuries and has just 14 carries in the past four games, and then two starting offensive linemen went down for the season. Iowa was averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 154.6 yards per game before that trio went down -- since, just 2.5 per carry and 78.0 per game. Toussaint should have the better day, as Iowa has been gutted for at least 214 yards rushing in three of the past four weeks. Advantage: Michigan
Michigan's receivers are coming off their two best games, which is notable considering the corps lost Gardner -- the best playmaker -- to quarterback. Jeremy Gallon and Roy Roundtree have become more active, posting their best games of the season. Iowa has struggled to pass the ball, but does have two elite downfield threats in Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley, both of whom rank among the top 10 in the league in receptions and receiving yards. Advantage: Even
Michigan's line has struggled this year to create holes for the tailbacks. That's especially true in the middle, where Ricky Barnum and Elliott Mealer have battled consistency issues for the past month. They did a better job last week, springing Toussaint for his best game and keeping Gardner upright after he was sacked three times in the previous week. Iowa had a decent unit, but was crippled by injuries to Andrew Donnal and Brandon Scherff. Advantage: Michigan
Michigan's defensive line is off last year's pace, but has rounded into a solid unit. Craig Roh and Jibreel Black both registered sacks last week, giving the unit seven on the season (and U-M 13 overall). Pressure hasn't been the unit's strongest point, but it has gained more push and is keeping the linebackers clean to make plays. Iowa blitzes only about 10 percent of the time, instead relying on its four linemen to gain pressure -- and they haven't done it. Iowa has 11 sacks, last in the Big Ten. End Joe Gaglione leads the way with five. Advantage: Michigan
Michigan was chewed up here a bit last week against Northwestern, with Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan registering perhaps their worst performances since Week 2. They redeemed themselves though, with Kenny Demens making critical stops in overtime to secure the win. Ryan remains Michigan's best defender. Iowa doesn't have much depth after losing two linebackers to career-ending injuries in the offseason. Another hasn't seen the field after having shoulder surgery. The Hawkeyes recently benched weak-side linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who led the team in tackles. Advantage: Michigan
Michigan continues to lead the nation in pass defense, allowing just 149.2 yards per game and not more than 199 in any game. The stats are skewed a bit, considering U-M hasn't faced many dynamic passing offenses, but it's doing something right to be ranked No. 1 this late in the season. The safety play has been tremendous, a big reason Michigan has allowed only 23 plays of at least 20 yards, second nationally. Iowa's Marcus Hyde is an NFL talent at corner, and is that team's best player. He has 12 pass breakups, third in the Big Ten. Advantage: Michigan
Kicker Brendan Gibbons has made his past 11 field-goal tries, including a 26-yarder in the closing seconds last week to force overtime. He's added range, too, booting a 52-yarder against Nebraska. Will Hagerup had another terrific day against Northwestern, showing his dour performance against Minnesota wasn't a fade to last year, and still leads the league in punting (44.7 yards per). Iowa's Mike Meyer has hit 84.2 percent of his field goals this year, just off Gibbons' 87.5-percent clip. But the Hawkeyes also have struggled to punt and return punts consistently. Advantage: Michigan