By Brendan Stiles
To get you all ready for Saturday’s game between Iowa and Michigan, I put together a list of things you ought to know before these two face off at Kinnick Stadium.
At the end, I’ll provide what I think are three keys to an Iowa victory.
Iowa Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3) vs. Michigan Wolverines (7-3, 3-3)
Kinnick Stadium; Iowa City, Iowa
Nov. 23, 2013
11 a.m. Central
TV: BTN (Kevin Kugler, Glen Mason, J Leman)
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network (Gary Dolphin, Ed Podolak, Rob Brooks)
Brendan’s Three Keys to the Game:
1. Pressure Gardner early and often
Michigan has given up 19 sacks just in the last three games alone, and one of the biggest reasons why has been the amount of blitzing done by opposing defenses. This is a game where one would think Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker will look to blitz a little more than usual. The Hawkeyes can’t just remain content rushing four guys thinking that’ll be enough against Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner because he does have enough playmakers that can get yards after the catch and the one thing Iowa has been suspect all season with (aside from maybe 2-3 games) has been surrendering big plays. Iowa should be able to dominate the line of scrimmage, but it won’t mean anything if that’s not resulting in Gardner getting sacked or making poor decisions with the football.
2. Maximize offensive strengths
This is two-fold. When it comes to the passing game, Iowa has done thing really well against Michigan the past few seasons — utilize its tight ends. This week is one where that 13 package the Hawkeyes use might prove real handy. The second aspect of this is the run game, but to be more specific, sticking with the hot hand in Jordan Canzeri. Yes, Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock should both be “fresher” after the bye. But Canzeri should be the guy getting the bulk of the carries these last few games. That’s not to say Weisman and Bullock shouldn’t get any carries. Just that Canzeri’s strengths are such that can throw Michigan’s defense off guard.
3. Early lead a must
Simply put, Iowa has to jump out to a fast start and force Michigan to play most of this game from behind if it’s going to win. If the Hawkeyes are as well prepared coming out of this bye week as they were before playing Ohio State last month, then they should be able to dictate the tempo of this game. Northwestern did this last week against Michigan, but wasn’t able to close the deal and it cost the Wildcats. The longer Iowa lets the Wolverines hang around, the more vulnerable the Hawkeyes become to that talent Michigan has because all it takes is one play, one block, one missed assignment to change momentum entirely. Iowa will likely have a chance to bury Michigan early and it’s going to have to seize that opportunity if it wants to win Saturday.