Iowa has been steady this season, cruising out to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2015, a season which ended in Pasadena. But the Hawkeyes have only faced adversity once this season – in week three against rival Iowa State. Against the Cyclones, Iowa entered the fourth quarter down, 14-9, but rallied to win, 18-17. The bread-and-butter for the Hawkeyes is running the football and Iowa has three solid backs this season. Juniors Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young, along with freshman Tyler Goodson, have combined for 652 yards on 131 carries. When the backs get going, the field opens up for senior quarterback Nate Stanley, who has thrown for 965 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception in 2019.
The Hawkeye defense is among the best in the country to this point in the season. Iowa ranks third in scoring and total defense, allowing just 8.5 points and 251 yards per game. This is despite the fact that the Hawkeyes have yet to get much pressure behind the opponents’ line of scrimmage. Iowa ranks 113th in sacks per game and 130th (of 130) in tackles for loss per game. Junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who had 10.5 sacks in 2018, has just one sack so far this season. But it’s tough to keep one of the best pass rushers in the country down and Epenesa could break out in any game.
Two weeks ago, after a loss at Wisconsin, it appeared the sky was falling in Ann Arbor. Fast forward to last week and the Wolverines (3-1) looked like their usual selves as they cruised past Rutgers, 52-0. Senior quarterback Shea Patterson threw for 276 yards and scored four total touchdowns in the win, ending any ideas of injuries hampering the Michigan signal caller. Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet had just five carries against Rutgers, but he was nursing an injury and the limited action should put Charbonnet in a position to be full-go against the Hawkeyes. In other improving injury news, junior stand-out receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones had been hampered by injury this season, with just one catch through the first four games. Against Rutgers last week, Peoples-Jones caught four passes for 62 yards and appeared fully healthy.
On defense, Michigan is good, but not as great as the last few years. The step-back was expected as the Wolverines have lost a lot of players to the NFL over the last several years, but the early season struggles have been surprising. The strength of the Michigan defense lies in the secondary, where the Wolverines rank third in the country allowing just 128 passing yards per game. Against the run, however, Michigan is feeling the effect of the losses and has allowed 168 yards per game, with ranks 89th nationally and 13th in the Big Ten.
Historically, Michigan has dominated this series, but the Hawkeyes have won five of the last six meetings. Those five wins have come by an average of 4.8 points, while the one Wolverine victory was by 25, 42-17, in 2012. If Iowa can run the ball successfully, they have a good chance to win a close game. Michigan’s best shot at victory comes by forcing the Hawkeyes to throw the ball.