By Tim Chapman Writer/Analyst


Michigan Pass vs. Iowa Pass Defense
Slight Edge: Iowa

John Navarre is averaging 220 yards through the air and almost two TD passes per game. The concern is that his INT tendency is starting to rear its ugly head. He has thrown five in five games, and four have come against the weak secondaries of Oregon and Indiana. Iowa has picked off more passes (seven) than TDs allowed (four). The Hawkeyes keep nearly everything in front of them and make you try and beat them in a footrace after the catch. Not that the Wolverines don't have the capability to do so, but they are much more adept at simply beating teams over the top, straight up.

Michigan will be forced to use a lot of Chris Perry out of the backfield and Massaquoi and Mignery from the TE position to produce as well as distract. It would be wise to utilize this early and play into Iowa's defensive game plan. This will draw in the secondary to play closer and tighter to the line of scrimmage, giving Michigan the potential to then hit 'em over the top.

To counter, the Hawkeyes need to bring pressure from the inside out on Navarre. He is a better runner than people credit him for if he has an inside lane, so forcing him to pivot and move outside will slow him and give the reinforcements a chance to move up and make the play.

Iowa has a pretty nasty defense (17th in nation), and if Bob Sanders is healthy, that makes them even better. This defense gave up more yards than expected last week and will be challenged all week to bounce back. Expect it to happen.


Iowa Pass vs. Michigan Pass Defense
Big Edge: Michigan

Iowa comes in ranking 108th in pass offense. Insult to injury is, well, more injury. Mo Brown and Ed Hinkel are out and will miss the clash with the Big Blue. Their absence has seen QB Nathan Chandler subtly diminish in potency. Not that the Hawkeyes were a big time passing presence, but the losses of their two starting receivers certainly makes it like driving with a bum wheel.

Michigan brings the nation's third best pass defense (fourth best pass efficiency defense) into Iowa City. They have not allowed a touchdown through the air yet this year, and look REALLY GOOD to continue that streak against the Hawkeyes. U of M has quick, aggressive corners and intelligent safeties in the middle. Overlooked in this area, though, is their pass rush. The Wolverines have a fierce front-four, and their LBs are great at blitzing the quarterback. They may not have the sacks you would expect, but reading between the lines will show you that they put a good deal of pressure on opposing QBs. Look out Chandler.

For Iowa to be successful, they'll need to open up with quick, three step drops. Michigan's pass rush is too quick, and Iowa's O-line gave up five sacks to the Spartans last week. Quick-hitting passes might make Michigan start to jump the routes. When this happens, then Iowa can throw a pump so as to air it out downfield, allowing their speedy receivers to run under it. If the Hawkeyes couldn't muster a pass game against Michigan State, though, dialing it up against the Wolverines looks doubtful.


Michigan Run vs. Iowa Run Defense
Slight Edge: Michigan

Michigan's Chris Perry has cooled off since the three-game ignition that started his "campaign". Chalk part of it up to less carries and more of a concentrated effort to seek balance through increasing the passing game. The other part can be attributed to opposing defenses (well, mainly Oregon) doing a stalwart job in congesting any running lanes. He will be looking for a breakout game to get back in the Heisman race. If he can do so against this Hawkeye defense, you can put him back in the Top 5.

Okay, cue Corso, "Not so fast my friend!" The Hawkeyes are allowing only 84 yards on the ground per game (15th nationally), though that stat may be a bit tainted. See, the Hawkeyes haven't really faced a team that dedicates itself to running like Michigan does, and certainly no one near the caliber of the Wolverines.

Michigan will make an absolute effort to methodically run the football. They'll work on it all week, scheming against how Iowa will assuredly bring seven and eight guys in the box. I expect to see misdirection, trap plays, lead plays, and a carefully plotted draw sprinkled in here and there. Michigan is gonna say, "No fooling around. If you're gonna beat us, you're gonna have to shut down our run game." They'll give Iowa problems, forcing the Hawkeyes to bring eight (and maybe even nine) up. Iowa is good, but not being battle-tested against a good running team will give them some fits early on. I like Perry to jump back into the minds of Heisman voters after this one.


Iowa Run vs. Michigan Run Defense
Edge: Even

Fred Russell was shut down in last year's tilt, so don't think he won't be itching to run right at the Wolverines this time. He's averaging 123 yards a game and almost six yards per touch. His offensive line has done an adequate job of opening holes and flattening potential tacklers. Then again, "Russ" doesn't need much. He is great at making guys miss and deceptively quick as he hits the hole - defenders usually have to be in just the right position to get him.

The Wolverines have been just okay - 114 yards per game given up - at stopping the run this year. Have they really faced any opposing run teams? Not really. Notre Dame is about as close to being a running team as you can get, and we have all seen the ill-achieved productivity the Irish have shown on offense. Still, Michigan has the athletes and tenacity to thwart the run game. They do a good job of keeping the opposition in tight areas, delaying progress and ultimately neutralizing ground gain. Michigan will be ready; can we say the same for Iowa's line?

The Hawkeyes will need to keep Russell relatively fresh, especially for use in the passing game, so look for them to give some "surprising" carries to fullback Edgar Cervantes. They'll also require productivity out of backup tailback Marcus Schnoor. The Hawkeyes' zone blocking scheme will see its share of both successes and failures against this Michigan defense. Michigan will send some run blitzes to clog the middle and outside gaps, defusing Russell's speed and agility. We'll see how well Iowa counters this strategy in the second half. If Russell can get it going in the third and fourth quarter, Iowa should be on the greener side of the fence.


Special Teams
Edge: Even

Iowa has kicking units. Michigan has return units. The Hawkeyes have been dangerous on special teams under Ferentz, and the Wolverines have secured this area well under Carr. The elements will cancel each other out, leaving it up to the field goal squads. Obviously, Iowa is leaps and bounds ahead of Michigan here, so the Wolverines will want to keep this game out of the fate of any last-second PK needs.


Final Thoughts

Iowa punched Michigan in the mouth last year, and you can bet the wounds have not yet healed. If you wanna see smash-mouth football, keep your dial tuned to ABC and hide the remote. Both these teams have an extreme sense of urgency.

Brad Banks was the catalyst in last year's embarrassment of the "Maize and Blue". Nathan Chandler poses no similar threat, but to beat this Wolverine team, the Hawkeyes are at sometime going to need him to throw the ball effectively. Iowa turned the ball over four times last week and could not overcome an early deficit. Iowa plays best when they are ahead. Kirk Ferentz has taught his teams to go for the jugular right away and clamp on tight. When they get behind, they tend to scramble, and not so well. The Hawkeyes must drive down and score on the opening possession, something Michigan has not allowed yet in 2003.

As for Michigan, they have to reestablish themselves as a dominant running team. Iowa prides itself on defending the run, so shaking up this identity will jolt the entire defense and allow the Wolverines to control the game, accordingly. I think Chris Perry gets back onto the fringe of the national spotlight with a solid rushing performance against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City, but will need to have his passing game come out and spread the field.

Though the game is being played at Iowa City, the Wolverines have been circling this rematch since last October, and the early loss to Oregon has really put the rest of the season into focus for this group. The lack of a perimeter/deep threat for the Hawkeyes puts too much pressure on Russell and the run game. This allows Michigan to work on this all week and come prepared with a scheme that will predictably shut down the Hawkeye ground attack. If Iowa wins, it will be because Nathan Chandler proves himself as a Big Ten quarterback. I don't see that happening this week.

Iowa fans, you had your fun…this year, Michigan gets even and ruins homecoming (with a trip to Ohio State next).


Chappy's Pick: Michigan 28 Iowa 13