2011 Michigan Wolverines Football

Big Ten football fans

Michigan Wolverines @ Iowa Hawkeyes Football Preview



It's hard to have a crossroads moment in a season if you don't taste a certain degree of adversity first. The Michigan Wolverines and Iowa Hawkeyes might not have been able to call their encounter a crossroads game if it had been staged in early October, but since these Big Ten stalwarts are clashing in early November; their meeting does indeed represent a turning point in the 2011 college football campaign.

One week after a devastating 22-21 loss at lowly Minnesota, Iowa (5-3) will return home on Saturday to face 13th-ranked Michigan (7-1). The Hawkeyes collapsed down the stretch last week, blowing a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead and allowing the Gophers to earn their first conference win of the season.

Michigan, on the other hand, pounded Purdue, 36-14, last Saturday in Ann Arbor. Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for a career-high 170 yards in the victory. Quarterback Denard Robinson added 233 all-purpose yards (170 passing, 63 rushing). The Wolverines amassed a 535-311 edge in total yards, and a near-13-minute advantage (36:25 to 23:35) in time of possession.

This game is such a pivotal moment for both teams because it will test their strengths and weaknesses on each side. Iowa is a perfect 5-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. If the Hawkeyes can't protect their home field, they'll know that their deficiencies weren't able to be masked by their raucous and loyal fan base. Michigan, for its part, will know - after a decisive loss at Michigan State a few weeks ago - that it can win a tough conference game on the road, sending the Maize and Blue's confidence soaring before the final few fistfights of 2011. On Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, the Wolverines will face their third road game in the past four weeks. They need to win this game to show that they can perform away from the Big House on their own campus.

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Let's consider the other side of the coin, then. If Iowa is indeed able to win at home, the Hawkeyes' loss at Minnesota would instantly be diminished. Saturday's game is Iowa's first of three matchups with ranked opponents in the month of November. The Hawkeyes will also face Michigan State and Nebraska. Iowa has to win one more game to achieve bowl eligibility, but a win here would give coach Kirk Ferentz's team a hope of something much greater than just a six-win season. Meanwhile, if Michigan is stymied in Iowa City, a young UM team would realize just how far it has to go to reach the Wolverines' normal standard of excellence, which coach Brady Hoke is trying to re-create in his first year on the job.

Iowa has suffered through uncharacteristic defensive struggles this year. The Hawkeyes currently rank eighth in the Big Ten in rush defense, and last in pass defense. Iowa gave up 178 rushing yards against Minnesota, whose rush offense was second-worst in the conference entering the game. Michigan's rush offense ranks eighth nationally at 253.3 yards per game, so it could be a long day for the Iowa defense. Iowa's offense, which averages 39 points per game at home, may be forced to keep the Hawkeyes in the game.



By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer