Week 5 of the college football season includes a rematch of last year's Big Ten Championship Game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Iowa Hawkeyes. And if past history is any indication, this week's contest should be a lot closer than that 42-3 blowout victory by the Wolverines in Indianapolis this past December.
Kinnick Stadium has become a house of horrors of sorts for Michigan, who has not won in Iowa City since 2005, with the last four losses being decided by a combined 14 points. In fact, the last eight contests between the Wolverines and Hawkeyes at Iowa have all been decided by eight points or fewer. In the words of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, Kinnick Stadium is where "top-five teams go to die."
We'll see if the Wolverines' chances at another College Football Playoff appearance are still alive after Saturday.
No. 4 Michigan at Iowa
When Michigan Has the Ball
Blake Corum continues to shine despite the absence of Donovan Edwards in the backfield, carrying the ball 42 times in the last two weeks with seven rushing touchdowns. With the passing game not in sync, the Wolverines leaned heavily on their junior running back, and he delivered the final blow with a 47-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the 34-27 victory over Maryland. All signs point to Corum having help on Saturday with Edwards back in the lineup after nursing an ankle injury the last two weeks. His return will be a welcomed addition as Saturday's backup, freshman CJ Stokes, fumbled on his lone rushing attempt.
After a blazing start to the season, quarterback J.J. McCarthy finally looked like a sophomore making just his third career start. The Terrapins' secondary deserves credit for locking up Michigan receivers throughout the game, but there were missed throws downfield that could've blown this game wide open, and McCarthy was over-extending plays where he should've just thrown the ball out of bounds. Not bad, though, when an 18-for-26 passing day for 220 yards, two touchdowns, and zero turnovers is considered a below-average performance.
There's plenty to clean up this week before facing an Iowa defense that is No. 1 in the country in scoring (5.8 ppg). McCarthy will need to keep his head on a swivel because the Hawkeyes' defensive line has been getting after opposing quarterbacks with 12 sacks in four games, led by underclassmen Lukas Van Ness and Aaron Graves.
When Iowa Has the Ball
Are we sure the Hawkeyes would rather not have the ball and just let their defense and special teams do all the work? Coming into Saturday's matchup with Rutgers, Iowa was dead last in the country in total offense, and nothing changed after the 27-10 victory. Kirk Ferentz's team remains 131st in total offense after putting up just 277 yards going 1-for-9 on third downs.
The passing game doesn't even bear mentioning at this point. But somehow, the Hawkeyes need to figure out how to churn out more yards on the ground. Unfortunately, the offensive line's struggles in 2021 have transferred over to this season as well, where the group ranks 117th in stuff rate and 121st in line yards, according to CollegeFootballData.com. Freshman running back Kaleb Johnson has given the team a bit of a spark with 161 rushing yards in the last two games, but the line isn't giving these backs much of a chance to find holes to run through.
This should be a good matchup for a Michigan front seven that did struggle some against Maryland last week, failing to generate much pass rush with the defensive line. Iowa has allowed nine sacks in four games, tied for second most in the Big Ten ahead of only Nebraska.
For as putrid an offense as the Hawkeyes possess, we're still anticipating a close matchup here because of how competitive the games have been between these two teams in Iowa City. That said, Iowa will have to force turnovers or make a play on special teams in order to pull off the upset Saturday, and Michigan has given the ball away just twice in four games. If McCarthy and the Wolverines' offense plays mistake-free football, they should remain undefeated.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Iowa 14
Podcast: Week 5 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread
— 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.
*Price as of publication.