Despite a subpar year from quarterback James Vandenberg, an ailing defense that has a league-low 11 sacks and a disappointing 4-6 record (2-1 Big Ten), the Iowa Hawkeyes are still capable of ending the Michigan Wolverines' Legends Division title hopes at noon on Saturday in The Big House.
A loss would pulverize any ideas of a Big Ten Conference Championship appearance, and it would most certainly shatter the Wolverines' BCS aspirations.
Taking Iowa lightly is the last thing Michigan wants to do, especially with the Ohio State Buckeyes lurking around the corner.
Momentum heading into the biggest week of the season (next week) starts by defending home turf this weekend against an Iowa team that was 5-3 entering its 24-16 victory—its third straight in the series—over the Wolverines in 2011.
Did anyone see that coming?
Michigan's lone loss prior to the Iowa game was a 28-14 defeat courtesy of the Michigan State Spartans. Other than that, the Wolverines rolled through the Big Ten.
Denard Robinson threw for 194 yards and two touchdowns but couldn't stake Michigan to a lead. Being held to 55 rushing yards didn't help Robinson, nor did it provide a boost for the Wolverines.
Different from last year?
But Michigan endures similar circumstances this year as it faced last year in terms of reaching the Big Ten title bout. It needs a few favors from the football gods. Michigan can't control other teams losing, but it can control winning its own games.
That's why beating Iowa is no less important than beating Ohio State at this point.
Each game since Michigan's 23-9 loss to the Huskers has been a must-win.
If Michigan wants to avoid repeating last year's nosedive, it has to place its concentration on the dangerous Hawkeyes.
Clip Hawkeyes Receivers
Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley make up the top wide receiver duo in the Big Ten. Michigan might want to pay special attention, as both are the among league leaders in receptions per game and receiving yards per game.
They've combined for 93 catches, 1,045 yards and three touchdowns, not to mention a combined 12-yard average per grab.
They're dangerous, but Michigan has done a decent job of containing star players this season. The Wolverines boast one of the nation's elite secondaries. If the Hawkeyes choose to take to the air, Michigan could deflate those plans with consistent waves of crippling coverage.
Vandenberg Still Capable of Fueling Win
He's not anywhere near the level most college football followers though he'd be, but James Vandenberg is still one of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks.
His drop-off doesn't negate the fact that he can take hold of a game with his arm. He's never really been a 30-passes-per-game guy, but he strings together 60 percent completion rates on 20 or so passes that prove to be difference-makers in the end.
He doesn't have top-end speed like Denard Robinson (but who does?). He's not as accurate as Alabama's A.J. McCarron, either. But addressing Vandenberg in the early goings of Saturday's game will benefit Michigan.
Mark Weisman Injury Puts a Damper on the Game
It doesn't appear that we'll see the star Hawkeyes running back. That's unfortunate because he's an entertaining, bulldozing back that's still among the Big Ten's top rushers, even after missing two weeks to an ankle injury.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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