Every week, AnnArbor.com sportswriters Dave Birkett and Mike Rothstein break down Michigan's upcoming football game. This week, they think the Wolverines are in for a dogfight at Iowa.
Michael Rothstein: Welcome to what is likely going to be Michigan's toughest week of the year. Ohio State may have more talent. Penn State may have a more talented offense. Wisconsin may have better tailbacks. But consider the combination of what is going to happen on Saturday - a stingy defense, a night game on the road and a raucous crowd - and the Wolverines might not see a tougher combination of events this season. Iowa's defense, especially its front four, are really, really talented.Â
Broderick Binns is on the outside and a tough person to block. His arms make him a pain for any offensive lineman and he has great technique with his feet. When teams focus on him, they leave Karl Klug, Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard to deal with. There's a reason Iowa rarely blitzes - it's because the combination of these four guys are usually able to spring free or at least hold the line to keep from big gains. And if Carlos Brown is hurt
and unable to play a lot - he was in a red 'don't touch me upon wrath of Rich' jersey Wednesday - that leaves Michigan with one tailback to try and break down these guys. Not a good situation.
: I'll grant you that Michigan is going into a snake pit. Iowa's a tough place to play regardless of the circumstance, but a night game on homecoming and with Iowa likely the Big Ten's last undefeated team - Wisconsin plays at Ohio State earlier Saturday - has things stacked in the Hawkeyes' favor. Iowa's defense is very good, but Arkansas State did put up 21 points last week. And Ricky Stanzi and Co.
aren't the type to run away from teams offensively. Regardless of Brown's health, I think Brandon Minor is the most important player in this game for Michigan. He's going to have to do with his physical running what Tate Forcier's done with his arm so many times this year - lead Michigan to victory.Â
MR: I'll give you the Arkansas State - and the Northern Iowa game, too. A lot of it comes down to what Ricky Stanzi decides to do. Stanzi has been horrendous when it comes to accuracy. Michigan's best bet might be to leave him alone in the pocket because he seems to be more accurate on the run this year than when he actually has time. I don't think this is going to be a high-scoring game. If it is, then that definitely favors Michigan. But I don't see it. I like Iowa's running backs, too. I think they might be the third-best tandem in the Big Ten behind the Wolverines and Wisconsin. And the funny thing is neither would have played much this year if it wasn't for a season-ending injury to Jewel Hampton. They both run smart and run hard - but Michigan did well last week against the run for the most part. So I think this ends up being a close game.Â
DB: And to win a close game, the Wolverines have to limit their mistakes and control tempo. They didn't do either last week. MSU dominated time of possession in the first half, and Forcier threw that crucial pick late. I'm not blaming him for the loss - he was the only reason Michigan got to overtime - but he's going to need a near flawless game for the Wolverines to win this week. Ditto for Stanzi. You touched on him, he's been as inconsistent as any quarterback in the Big Ten. If he has his way with Michigan's secondary, then you know there's not much hope back there.Â
: If Stanzi has his way with Michigan's secondary, I shudder to think what Daryll Clark does in two weeks. But I don't think that happens because, well, Stanzi just isn't that. Plus, I think weather plays a role. Some forecasts have this being played at close to freezing with a chance of snow. This may sound silly, but consider this: Neither Denard Robinson nor Tate Forcier have played in the snow before. Last I checked, the only snow you see in San Diego is when you drive up to Big Bear
. And snow is different from rain in that it is cold and slippery and sometimes, tastes kind of nice. But anyway, Iowa's defensive front seven is going to be the difference. The Hawkeyes will score a defensive touchdown and keep Michigan in check. It's a close game because Stanzi throws an interception or two, but Iowa wins, 20-10.
DB: Hope you weren't eating the yellow kind of snow there, Mike. We'd be dining at different tables Friday night if that was the case. As for Saturday, I'm with you that Iowa has a little too much for Michigan. I think it's going to be a classic close game, though. Minor plays sledgehammer and gets the rushing game back on track and Warren continues his hot ways with another pick, but home-field is the difference as Iowa's defensive front takes out some frustration on Forcier. I've got Iowa winning, 24-20.