Friday, October 15, 2010

Iowa preview

The good news against Iowa: Tony Moeaki (MOEAKI!!!; above) is currently shredding the NFL and won't be able to make Jordan Kovacs look silly this year. The bad news: Michigan State and 176.84, which is Ricky Stanzi's passer rating in 2010. The numbers:
Passing28th nationally
179.00 YPG
32nd nationally
254.20 YPG
Rushing2nd nationally
63.20 YPG
45th nationally
172.20 YPG
Scoring1st nationally
10.20 PPG
33rd nationally
33.60 PPG
Passing119th nationally
304.33 YPG
46th nationally
236.33 YPG
Rushing55th nationally
146.33 YPG
6th nationally
297.33 YPG
Scoring75th nationally
26.83 PPG
14th nationally
37.33 PPG
So... it looks pretty grim. And, well, it is. (Hey, at least we're not last in passing defense anymore. That distinction goes to Tulsa. Woot?) But Iowa's schedule has been one of the easiest in the country. They've played Eastern Illinois, Iowa State, Ball State, a crappy Penn State team, and--their only loss--Arizona.

Last year, Michigan had a chance to win the game thanks in large part to the heroics of Denard Robinson running all over Iowa's supposedly stout run defense. Then they lost the game thanks to the inexperience of Denard. It was a heartbreaking loss, one that had it gone the other way, would've seen bowl eligibility and a significantly less hot hot seat for Rich Rodriguez this year.

Like last year, Iowa comes into the game with one of the most prolific statistical defenses in the country. They have a stout running defense that no one has scored on yet (like last year) and has a front four that's anchored by All Everything defensive end Adrian Clayborn. But as mentioned above, Iowa hasn't really played a quality offense outside of Arizona, who is currently 26th in total offense and 28th in scoring offense. And Arizona's schedule has been pretty soft this year as well (Toledo, Citadel, Oregon State, Cal, and Iowa). The point is, like last year, Iowa's defense is getting talked up a lot because of the numbers they've produced, but Michigan should be able to move the football against them.

On the other side of the ball, Ricky Stanzi seems to have fixed his pick-6 problem from last year and has become one of the most proficient quarterbacks in the country, which, yikes. Iowa's run game is unimpressive, especially by Iowa standards, which means they'll probably go to the air more often this game. You can imagine how that will turn out.

Prediction: After last week, it's difficult to see Michigan winning this game. Before the season started, I was fairly convinced that this was a W for Michigan, largely because no team in the Big Ten was hit as hard by the NFL draft as Iowa, who lost a lot of NFL talent. But with Stanzi turning into a better-than-just-functioning quarterback and Michigan's secondary being even more cavernous than it was last year, well, this game looks out of reach.

Denard will have a bounceback game of sorts. He'll rush for over 100 yards and a higher YPC than he did against MSU. He won't completely avoid mistakes, however, and he'll turn the ball over once. Winning the turnover battle will be key, but I see someone else on the Wolverines putting the ball on the ground and costing Michigan big time. Michigan will move the ball well despite playing against a good defense, but ultimately, there will be too many self-inflicted wounds. Michigan will score the first rushing touchdown against Iowa for the second year in a row, though, and probably score three times on the ground.

Defensively, it's going to look a lot like the Michigan State game. Iowa is going to pass the ball all over Michigan's secondary and they'll also gain good chunks of yardage on the ground, aided by a lot of missed tackles. Michigan will continue to show a fair amount of man coverage (probably about the same amount they showed against MSU), especially if Kenny Demens sees significant playing time. His coverage skills have been criticized, but if Michigan feels more comfortable with him on the field, we'll probably see more blitzing and man coverage from the defense.

If Michigan can find a way to create a few turnovers while holding onto the ball themselves, they'll have a puncher's chance in this one. The defense is set up to fail miserably here, meanwhile the offense should move just as fluidly as it did last year against Iowa with Denard in the game. Michigan will run away from Clayborn and also start running up the middle more. Unfortunately, Michigan is going to turn the ball over a few too many times and end up dropping their second straight to a chorus of "I told you the spread can't work in the Big Ten"s. Iowa 38-28


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