The Wolverines, undefeated at the time at 9-0 and looking like a true national championship contender, went into Iowa City on a cold and dreary November night looking for their first big road victory of the season. The result? A crushing last-second defeat, as Iowa kicker Keith Duncan nailed a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give the Hawkeyes a 14-13 victory.
While the loss did not cripple the Wolverines' season, it was a precursor for what was to come, as Michigan eventually lost to Ohio State to end the year, missed out on the College Football Playoff and lost its bowl matchup by one point to Florida State.
Entering Saturday, it is now the Hawkeyes who are undefeated (albeit after just four games) and heading into their biggest road matchup of the year with heightened expectations and needing to keep pace in the Big Ten West division with Wisconsin, which doesn't appear likely to lose anytime soon.
This weekend's matchup between the Wolverines and Hawkeyes is crucial, as both teams look to stay within striking distance in the Big Ten race.
Iowa at Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Michigan -3.5
When Iowa Has the Ball
The Hawkeyes aren't doing anything flashy offensively this season, no surprise for a Kirk Ferentz-led team, but they are undefeated in part because they are playing some of the cleanest football in the country right now. Senior quarterback Nate Stanley is completing 64 percent of his throws thus far for 965 yards, eight touchdowns and, most importantly, zero interceptions.
The ground attack has improved drastically since last season from a numbers perspective, averaging well over a yard more per carry on the ground behind a trio of ball-carriers — Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young, and Tyler Goodson — who each have 200-plus yards rushing through four contests. The running game will get a major boost Saturday with starting tackle Alaric Jackson returning to the lineup after missing the last three games due to a knee sprain.
We mentioned clean football — just check these stats: Iowa currently ranks second in the country in fewest penalties. The Hawkeyes have committed just one turnover all year and have allowed just 15 tackles for a loss all season, which puts them in the top 10 nationally. No wonder the Hawkeyes enter Saturday with an undefeated record.
When Michigan Has the Ball
Beating Rutgers 52-0 doesn't move the needle at all for fans of the program, but the shellacking of the Scarlet Knights was a much-needed tonic for the Michigan football team after the defeat in Madison the week prior. After being effectively benched against Wisconsin, quarterback Shea Patterson accounted for four TDs in just two-plus quarters against Rutgers and had his best throwing day of the season, completing 17-of-23 passes for 276 yards.
What was the difference in the offense’s performance last week? Well, besides Rutgers curing all ailments, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis was calling plays from the field for the first time in 2019, and all parties involved noted following the game that it was a positive change overall.
Michigan will need to be better against the Hawkeyes on the ground. The Wolverines rank 10th in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging just 131 yards per game. The continued disappearance of Zach Charbonnet remains a hot-button topic as the star freshman has just seven carries in the last two weeks after a career-high 33 against Army in Week 2. This might not be the week for the Michigan running game to get going, though, as Iowa ranks 10th in the nation in rush defense.
On a neutral field, Iowa would be a narrow favorite in this matchup. The offense doesn't beat itself. The defense has been consistent. And the Hawkeyes do not turn the football over — something the Wolverines have struggled with mightily in 2019. But the game is in Ann Arbor, and Michigan is coming into this matchup with a bit of renewed confidence after getting back in the win column last week. Shea Patterson and the Wolverines passing game will make just enough plays to squeak out a late win in the fourth quarter to give the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Iowa 21
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.