Michigan Football: Keys to Victory over Iowa Hawkeyes on Senior Day

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 27: Quarterback Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines is attended to by trainers after being injured during their game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Saturday will mark the final home game in Denard Robinson's Michigan career.

That has to sound odd to Wolverines fans. To make matters worse, at least from a sentimental standpoint, Shoelace may not even play due to the same ulnar nerve injury that has kept him out of the last two games.

If he can't go, Devin Gardner will. He has played very well as of late, but this isn't supposed to be his day.

Michigan is better than Iowa from a talent standpoint, but don't rule the Hawkeyes out of this one. A few key factors could swing the game in their favor.


Avoid Turnovers

One way to make a bad team look good is to give them extra opportunities. The Hawkeyes don't have enough talent to stick with the Wolverines on an even playing field, but a few key giveaways could turn the tides rather quickly.

With Robinson's status up in the air, it's hard to tell which way things will go. Gardner has been very good in the past two games, but he has also thrown an interception in each contest.

The Hawkeyes are 29th in the nation in terms of scoring defense. Scoring points has been a struggle, but this isn't a bad defensive squad. If Michigan gives away a few possessions, an upset is very possible.

Guys like Micah Hyde and Tanner Miller are capable ball hawks on the back end of Iowa's defense. Whoever winds up behind center must take care of the ball or fear a disappointing loss.


Jump on Iowa Early

It's always important to put an underdog down early. Do anything else and you risk giving away momentum, which could result in an upset.

The Wolverines have the players to make big plays, and they must go to the well early. Gardner could break a big run, Robinson could break a big run or Fitzgerald Toussaint could step up more than he has all season long.

A big defensive play would work as well. Kenny Demens and J.T. Floyd, two great leaders, will be playing their final home games in a Wolverines uniform. Translating that emotion into big plays could jump start the entire team.

Iowa does not have a lot of firepower. Mark Weisman has been banged up all season, and James Vandenberg has struggled to carry the offense on his own. If the Hawkeyes get behind early, there's not a lot for them to fall back on.

Michigan needs to come out, end this game early and enjoy Senior Day.


Manage Emotions

Senior Day is going to make Michigan Stadium a very emotional venue on Saturday, especially because of Robinson's pending departure.

Robinson has been exhilarating to watch in his Wolverines career. As one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks the college football world has ever seen, he has electrified audiences for four years. Even if he's not able to play on Saturday, it's going to be a melancholic day in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines must not allow emotions to dictate the game. Senior Day is a time-honored tradition, but it's only satisfying if the team earns a victory.

Turning emotion into energy is necessary on Saturday. Using the senior's send-off to their advantage is possible for the Wolverines, and it plays into the factors I mentioned earlier.

If Robinson plays, expect emotion to take on a completely different form. If he doesn't, winning the game for him should play a factor. Either way, this needs to be Michigan's day from start to finish.


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