The undefeated Wolverines will hit the road for the first time in the 2022 football season on Saturday. Michigan will head to Iowa City to take on the 3-1 Iowa Hawkeyes.
The last meeting between the two teams was back in December of 2021 when Michigan beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game, 42-3. That win clinched the Wolverines their first College Football Playoff birth, along with a Big Ten title
Entering Saturday, Iowa will bring in the nation’s top scoring defense that allows 5.8 points-per-game, but the Hawkeyes will also deploy the worst statistical offense in the country — Iowa averages 232.5 yards-per-game.
Regardless of stats, Kinnick Stadium has been known as a place where top-five teams go to die. Since 2008, the Hawkeyes are 5-1 against ranked teams in the top five.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is ready for the challenge that Michigan presents. He credits the Wolverines as not only one of the best teams in the Big Ten, but one of the best teams in the nation. Ferentz believes that Michigan is a well-coached team and the maize and blue has talent all over the place.
“With Michigan coming to town, we have a tough challenge here,” said Ferentz. “Traditionally they’ve been one of the best teams in the conference and might as well say best teams in the country, as well. Had a really good year last year, and they’ve continued that play moving forward into this season, so they’re off to a really good start.”
“As always, an impressive team,” continued Ferentz. “They have a lot of talent, all three phases, and certainly are well-coached. You pick out the special teams, grab that one. They have three very veteran guys in terms of their specialists, the punter, kicker. One is a fifth-year guy, one is a sixth-year guy, and their deep snapper is a veteran guy, as well, senior. Excellent return guys. They do a nice job.”
“It’s the same thing offensively and defensively,” said Ferentz. “They have a lot of really good players, and they’ve been very productive, very successful, and it’s going to take our best team effort to have a chance in this ballgame. So it’s a big challenge for us. Look forward to that on Saturday.”
One player that impresses Ferentz is Mazi Smith, the Michigan defensive tackle. Ferentz called Smith an athlete and that there is nobody on his team that can replicate Smith during practice.
“And he’s like 350 or whatever he is? Looks like a refrigerator except he can move,” said Ferentz on Smith.
Last season, Iowa had a 10-4 record, and the Wolverines dominated the Hawkeyes on every level right from the kick. Michigan scored 42 points against a stellar Iowa defense in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Hawkeyes have been showing a replay of that game in the locker room.
But Kirk Ferentz says that he isn’t using that to make this game out to be a ‘revenge game’, but he is just showing players what Michigan looked like last season. Now the players on the other hand, Ferentz says that each individual is different on if they will make the game against Michigan on Saturday their revenge game.
“It depends on the individual,” said Ferentz. “Those words aren’t coming out of my mouth. I’m looking that way. But it is a reminder, what I was talking about earlier. If you aren’t on top of things and you give up a couple of big plays, all of a sudden the hill gets pretty steep. When you’re trying to ascend a hill like that against a team that’s that talented, it’s tough. It’s tough, and then they’ve got you where they want you. The first thing you have to do is just keep it close and make sure every play is sound, and if they’re going to get something, make them really work and earn it, and we didn’t do that necessarily last year. If somebody has motivation that comes out of that, I think we all want to do better, needless to say. But it’s not as simple as hey, let’s go get these guys. I wish it was.”
Cade McNamara was the starting quarterback for Michigan last year when Iowa faced the Wolverines. While McNamara led the Wolverines to the best season that they have had in a very long time, the Iowa coach says that Michigan may be better this year with McCarthy.
“You might argue they’re better,” said Feretnz. “I don’t know. They’re both really good players. I don’t want to call it a dilemma. It’s been a discussion point, at least it sounds like, up in Ann Arbor and maybe points beyond that. From where I’m standing, it looks like it’s tough to go wrong either way, and maybe that’s the situation they’re facing.”
With McCarthy being from Illinois, the Hawkeyes recruited him — like every other school. Ferentz said that he wanted the five-star quarterback to come to his school, but his team wasn’t in the discussion for very long. Ferentz noted the challenge that McCarthy brings to the table. He can sling the rock, but he can also pull the ball and utilize his feet to make plays.
“Oh, yeah, we knew who he was, but were not in that discussion for long, which was like a lot of the players that they have on their team,” said Ferentz. “Although I think they wanted Tony. We got one there, so at least we won one battle. But yeah, he’s an excellent football player, and I think you just have to be cognizant of that when you’re playing defense. You’ve got to realize this guy can pull it down and hurt you that way. Some quarterbacks can’t, but he certainly can, and they’ve got a couple of guys that are pretty adept back there moving around and making plays with their feet but also being able to throw the ball, even if they are moving around. It’s tougher to defend.”
You can see the game at noon EDT on FOX.