Thursday, November 15, 2012
Five storylines: Iowa at Michigan
By Chantel Jennings
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Each Thursday, WolverineNation will take a look at five storylines heading into Saturday's game. These are five to look at as the Wolverines take the field at Michigan Stadium for the last time during the 2012-13 season.
1. Will Denard or Devin take the most snaps? Yes, it's Robinson's senior day, but does that mean he'll play? On Monday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said it all comes down to his health, and at this point Robinson remains day-to-day. What makes this more interesting is that it also might hold implications for next Saturday against Ohio State. Hoke has made it clear that he doesn't believe in playing someone in games who doesn't practice. And while we don't know to what extent Robinson is practicing, it begs the question: If Robinson sits out for three consecutive games, would he really be ready to play in The Game.
2. Handling the pressure of perfection.
There's a definite pressure going into every game at this point because Michigan's only hope of a Big Ten title game berth is if it wins out and gets some help from Nebraska losing. But now, there's another added pressure. If the Wolverines can beat Iowa, Michigan will be undefeated in the Big House under Brady Hoke. Players say they aren't focused on anything except winning this game, but that underlying pressure and what that does for making it difficult for opponents to play in Ann Arbor can’t be forgotten about.
3. Playing against a team with nothing to lose.
Because of those pressures Michigan is going to face, plus the fact there are going to be a lot of senior day festivities before the game, there will be a lot of emotion. That's not always a good mixture when going against a team like Iowa that has nothing to lose. They're on the road. They've lost four in a row. No one expects Iowa to win. So the Wolverines will have to control their emotions as they face a team like that. If they play on emotion and Iowa plays on, well whatever they might play on, it could spell upset.
4. Will this be the week the run game gets going? I'm pretty sure this is a storyline every week. But at this point it remains more of a question mark. It's pretty remarkable that the Wolverines have amassed a 5-1 conference record with little more than a semblance of a run game. Justice Hayes got in early (though, not often) last weekend and we've been seeing more and more of Thomas Rawls as the season goes on. Will this be the weekend when Michigan goes with a bit of youth instead of sticking with Fitzgerald Toussaint? Or will it be more of the same?
5. The Hawkeyes have an eye for turnovers.
Iowa leads the Big Ten (12th nationally) with a plus-11 turnover margin. The Wolverines, on the other hand, rank 10th in the Big Ten in turnover margin (minus-five). Obviously Iowa's ability to force turnovers and not turn the ball over hasn't manifested itself in big wins, but those kinds of plays really turn the tide of a game. We'll see whether the Wolverines can control the ball.