ANN ARBOR — The Iowa football team’s game notes for Saturday’s matchup at Michigan came with an unusual notation.
When the Hawkeyes face the Wolverines at Michigan Stadium, it will be the first time they have faced a ranked opponent this season. Even more of an anomaly? The Hawkeyes will play for their fourth straight win against the Wolverines.
Consider that the Hawkeyes haven’t won a game in more than a month. Iowa’s last win came Oct. 13, a 19-16 double-overtime victory at Michigan State, and Iowa played in six games this season that have been decided by three points or less.
The Hawkeyes have lost four of those games, including last weekend’s 27-24 loss to Purdue in Iowa City, Iowa.
Now, the Hawkeyes (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) will face a Michigan team that eked out an overtime win last Saturday against Northwestern. Despite the fact that the Hawkeyes are winless in the last month, the No. 23 Wolverines (7-3, 5-1) won’t overlook a program that, as of late, has held their number.
“They’re typical Iowa, where they’re going to get on you and they’re going to do a great job in the zone schemes,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “Defensively, they’re going to play very tight up front and let the linebackers flow. In the kicking game, they’ve got some real weapons in their kickoff return, their kick coverage, and in the kickoff that they’ve done a nice job with.”
Still, it’s easy to quantify Iowa. In last week’s loss to Purdue, Iowa rushed for 74 yards on 31 carries and lost on a last-second field goal. In part to separate injuries to fullbacks Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock, Iowa has struggled to create a ground game and is averaging 124 rushing yards a game, 11th in the Big Ten.
“One thing about competing, there are no guarantees,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “If you compete and keep score, somebody’s going to win and somebody’s going to lose. We’ve come up on the short end more often than we care to.
“It’s about how you respond. What can you do to find solutions and find success? Those are the challenges we face.”
While Michigan aims to keep its Big Ten championship hopes within reach, the Hawkeyes are two wins away from becoming bowl eligible, though that could be a challenge.
After Michigan, the Hawkeyes finish the regular season against another team in pursuit of a conference title game berth — No. 16 Nebraska, which holds the tiebreaker with Michigan for the Legends Division championship.
“We’re not playing the 2009 version of Wolverines, and they’re not playing 2009 Hawkeyes,” Ferentz said. “We’re both playing to win. That’s the most important thing out there, for both of us.”
DRAFT TALK: Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN’s NFL draft analyst, projected Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan as a first-round pick in the 2013 draft.
Kiper said in a conference call that Lewan is the No. 2 offensive tackle behind Texas A&M’s Luke Joecke.
“He’s played better and better as the season went along,” Kiper said of Lewan. “The left tackle spot obviously is so critical to the NFL and what they're doing in this league now that they're throwing the ball so much.”
Lewan, a 6-foot-8, 309-pound redshirt junior, has not declared his intentions to enter the 2013 NFL Draft.
SENIOR BOWL: DraftInsider.net reported that Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has received an invitation to the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26, 2013, in Mobile, Ala.
Robinson has missed Michigan’s last two games with an injury to the ulnar nerve in his throwing arm, and Hoke said Robinson’s status remains day-to-day for Saturday’s game against Iowa.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.