The only bad part about the bye week was that Iowa's strength of schedule took a beating as Iowa State got woodshedded against Utah, Arizona fell just short against Oregon State, Penn State lost to Illinois (who is kind looking not too bad actually), Ball State lost handily to Western Michigan, and Eastern Illinois lost its 6th consecutive game. Win against its next 3 opponents and the poor non-conference SOS will be forgotten, but at this point it certainly looks bad.
So, moving forward...next up is a game at Michigan. I tried to pay particular attention to them on Saturday while they were playing Michigan State. After watching the game, my confidence level for this upcoming game definitely rose, but I still think this game could very close and high scoring (by Iowa standards), similar to last year's 30-28 win.
Michigan...a repeat of last year?Thus far, Michigan's 2010 season very closely resembles 2009. A heroic quarterback leading the Wolverines to a few big wins early in the season; a perfect non-conference schedule followed by a shaky win against Indiana; a steady climb up the top-25 before losing to Michigan State... In 2009, after the MSU loss, Michigan went on to lose to Iowa and then every other Big Ten team it faced. I don't think that'll happen this year, but it's not hard to imagine at least 3 more losses with Iowa, Ohio State, and Wisconsin still ahead.
Michigan vs. Michigan StateBig Plays: Michigan has been living by the big play thus far this season, but on Saturday they died by it. On a down to down basis, Michigan didn't look too bad on Saturday. They moved the ball with some consistency between the 20s early in the game and I thought the defense actually looked okay against shorter passes (which has been a weakness...look at the Indiana game last week) and against the run. The big problem for Michigan was losing the big plays. Michigan State had touchdown runs of 41 and 61 yards, a 41-yard passing touchdown, and big gain off of a fake reverse pass out of the wildcat that set up another TD. Additionally, MSU made big plays on defense with 3 interceptions, 2 which came in the endzone as Michigan was about to score.
Robinson's worst game: Up until last weekend, Denard was putting up incredible numbers in all regards. He had a high passing efficiency, he was one of the nation's leaders in rushing yards, he had been remarkably smart with the football with only 1 turnover despite the large portion of the time that he handles the ball, etc... While he still has good stats for the season, against Michigan State some of his weakness came through. He committed 3 turnovers, had a season low QB rating of 111.59, ran for less than 100 yards for the first time this year, and perhaps most important for Michigan State was that Robinson's longest rush of the day was just 16 yards.
Playing from behind: Michigan has been behind before this season, but it seemed like as soon as they were down by 2 scores that the whole game plan went out the window and things just broke down. Robinson was asked to make plays with his arm instead of his feet and he struggled to move the offense. It also seemed like Rich Rod gave up on his team in the fourth quarter punting with around 6 minutes left and down 17, but after scoring a TD and holding Michigan State. After the punt, the Spartans proceeded to run the ball 10 straight plays and run the remaining 5:41 off of the clock.
Quick Keys for Iowa
- I think Iowa can win the game by grinding it out on offense and count on the defense to stop the Wolverines. Iowa does not necessarily need big plays to win. Michigan does need big plays however, so Iowa needs to do its best to limit them.
- Michigan is going to score points and test the defense. They probably should have scored around 30 or so against MSU, but had 2 redzone turnovers and a missed field goal. Even though Iowa's defense is better than MSU's, I think Michigan will score more points this weekend than last. The key is to not give up points easily. Holding Michigan to a field goal will be a win for the defense (especially with Michigan's kicking troubles).
- Ricky Stanzi could have a huge day and needs to. Michigan's defense looked competent to start the game, but was awful the rest of the way. They tried to be aggressive, but as a result got burned on some long plays. Michigan's young and inexperienced secondary won't be able to cover Iowa's receivers and the lack of a pass rush with the 3 defensive linemen will give Stanzi plenty of time to find an open target.