Michigan's Struggles vs. Iowa Prove Wolverines Have No Shot Against Ohio State

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor INovember 23, 2013

IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines is tripped up during the second quarter by defensive lineman Louis Trinca-Pasat #90 of the Iowa Hawkeyes  on November 23, 2013 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Anything goes when Michigan and Ohio State clash, but after the Wolverines' performance in a 24-21 loss to Iowa on Saturday afternoon it's going to take a lot to win this year's edition of "The Game." 

When you throw and run for fewer than 100 yards, record all of 10 first downs and fail to score any points in an entire half, its hard to make a case you have a chance of winning against Ohio State. 

It's even less likely when you blow a 21-7 halftime lead and watch the Hawkeyes score 17 unanswered points on the way to victory. 

Talk about grasping defeat from the jaws of victory, huh?

Michigan's woes in the running game continued against Iowa, as it mustered all of 60 yards on 29 attempts, averaging a paltry 2.1 yards a carry. 

Starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint had six carries for 12 yards, Derrick Green had 11 carries and gained only 23 yards and once again Devin Gardner was forced to improvise behind the line of scrimmage. He ended the day with 10 carries and 12 yards, but was sacked once and had 33 yards of negative rushing plays. 

Next week, Michigan's struggling ground game will be pitted against an Ohio State run defense that came into this weekend allowing just four rushing touchdowns and just over 100 yards a game in conference play.  

To date, the Michigan offense has had just one 100-yard rushing game from a running back in Big Ten play, and that was Toussaint's 151-yard performance against Indiana.

Oh no, not the mighty Indiana rushing defense! The Hoosiers give up 253 yards on the ground in conference action. Should Toussaint's performance against Indiana even really count? 

The offensive numbers on Saturday were bad, but so too was the inability of the Michigan defense to make key plays when needed in the second half. 

Iowa had the ball for over 18 minutes of the second half, and its two scoring drives in the fourth quarter were both nine-play drives that went for over four minutes apiece. 

Michigan's pain on defense wasn't confined to just the fourth quarter, though, as Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock opened up the second half with a nice 55-yard touchdown pass to Tevaun Smith. 

It was the spark the Hawkeyes needed and the bubble-bursting moment for the Wolverines all rolled into one play. 

No doubt all of that was bad, but even worse was the Wolverines' inability to take advantage of Hawkeye miscues. Iowa turned the ball over four times, but Michigan could only come up with seven points off those turnovers. 

It would be one thing if this was a one-time performance from the Wolverines, but this isn't the first time they have played like the did on Saturday. 

That pattern of ineptitude in the running game, a lack of consistency in the passing game and a defense that can't get away from giving up the big play doesn't bode well for its chances against Ohio State. 

Based on what it has shown all season long, unless something drastically changes next week Michigan is in serious trouble against the Buckeyes—especially since Urban Meyer's crew loves to jump on opponents early on and then break them down as the game goes along.

That's what Iowa did in the second half, and it eventually broke Michigan's spirit. 


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.


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