Michigan Football: Iowa at Michigan — What May Happen — Senior Day — Final Preview
Michigan faithful, at least some, hold firm that Michigan has struggled this year. Every team in football that does not trounce an opponent like a starving cat in a mouse orphanage hears the same: struggle, problems, and underachievement.
Now, in Iowa City the same scene is playing out. After a bad few opening acts, save one against Michigan State, the Iowa season sits at 4-6 with two games remaining. This is akin to Casey at the bat with Iowa having two strikes and needing home runs against Michigan and Nebraska. There is still hope in Mudville (Iowa City) but less joy than normal.
Michigan has hope of a different type: the slim, faint hope that everything goes not to plan and the Wolverines have a chance at the Legends’ title.
When the whistle blows, and people get smacked around a little, all of that whimsical philosophy and what if’s are gone: game on.
Iowa has a new offensive coordinator, Greg Davis, previously of Texas. Coach Davis has coached for nearly 40 years and has enjoyed national titles and acclaim.
The offense has been limited lately by key injuries to the offensive line (two starters out) and the unfortunate, continued string of running back injuries. This Saturday, Iowa’s most successful running back of 2012, Mark Weisman, a converted fullback, may not play. And the current fullback Brad Rogers also has been injured. This has resulted in a recent subpar running game for Iowa.
The passing game of Iowa, much as Michigan, has struggled. Fifth year senior, James Vandenberg, is completing only 59% of his passes. He has the arm and the tools but things have not gone well. Again, like Michigan, the situation is split in assigning grief. One time a receiver drops the ball and another time a wide-open receiver is missed badly. The Iowa receiving corps certainly misses McNutt, but there is good size in this unit and less than elite vertical speed. Does this sound familiar?
The Iowa defense is solid, but has paid the price a good defensive unit does when the offense struggles. The lack of a running game the last few weeks has clearly stressed the defense into needing to play near error free.In fact, there has been little margin of error lately for Iowa. Again, does this sound familiar?
So, two teams square off that have had trouble, sans a Michigan quarterback, running the ball. Will both teams attempt to establish the run? Probably, since this appears to be part of the inherent DNA and there is not absolute faith in either passing game. Although clearly last week’s passing effort by Michigan at least served as a catalyst for higher expectations.
Iowa will use two backs, one back, tight ends, h-backs, and several wideouts. The offense is not as vanilla with Coach Davis but hardly Steve Spurrier fun and gun.
Iowa will use what works on Saturday, whether it be the running game, or the passing game. The bet here is that if Michigan can jump out to a lead, the passing game will make an early entrance. In fact, the passing game may make an immediate entrance if Coach Davis sees little chance of running success.
Coach Davis likes to throw to the isolation side of the formation. Iowa has worked on rushing to the defender and then getting past and up field. There is little doubt Michigan will see the same go and hitch and go double moves that have been in the opponent’s arsenal the last few weeks.
This year Iowa has used multiple wideout formations to flood an area and then throw quick, short look-ins or skinny posts. This will happen and Michigan needs to be patient and maintain the number one goal for Saturday: do not give Iowa easy points on long plays. If this goal is met, Iowa’s chances of winning melt.
Iowa will throw to the backs, and again Michigan needs to be patient and hold the damage to a minimum. Iowa has not gone on many long game controlling drives lately and the sooner the Wolverine defense can get off the field the better things will be at the end of the day.
James Vandenberg can still run the bootleg well, and Michigan will need to remember this is an Iowa staple, new coordinator and all.Coach Mattison will emphasize stopping the run, even with Iowa’s recent lack of big time production. The linebackers will be busy with Iowa’s blocking schemes and will need to cover in the short passing game. He also knows the deep ball is coming. It will come down who wins the individual battles: the receiver or the defensive back.
Coach Mattison’s plan on defending the short game of Iowa will be important, perhaps critical. Will Coach play it safe with the intent to prevent big plays, or send the fort seeking chaos?
Michigan will almost certainly attempt to run the ball early and throw downfield when the opportunity for success is high. Iowa has good linebackers that play with discipline but blitz with the intention of tackles for negative plays. Michigan must again be ready for A Gap blitzes. It will be interesting to see if Michigan uses personnel packages more so than when Denard’s running was most of the offense.
The assumption is Denard Robinson will play little or not at all.
Michigan will have to do more than just the inside read and quarterback draw to control the ball on Saturday. The final answer may lie in the feet and arm of Devin Gardner. If the Iowa defense can be moved out of the box by some pass damage, then Coach Borges has the luxury of many options. Pass pro for both teams is needed for success Saturday, but if Devin has sufficient time Roundtree and Gallon should have nice opportunities.
Turnovers, as always, will be a determining factor. Vadenberg, Robinson, and Gardner have all thrown critical interceptions this year. Both offensive coordinators will hope that their quarterback is not the initiator.
The field goal units have been excellent for both teams if the game comes down to one final boot. Iowa’s game has more range.Iowa is still big and physical and Michigan has not run over anyone this year. This equalizer is what Iowa is pinning its hopes on. Michigan will need the arm and legs of Devin Gardner to have another good day. Receivers making plays like last week would certainly be much appreciated.
Coach Hoke has deemphasized the role of emotions this week and placed the focus on winning the Iowa game. It has to be that way, but a win would be savored by all, especially the seniors.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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