IOWA CITY — Perhaps the lowest point of Iowa’s disastrous 2012 season came at Michigan, where the Wolverines handed the Hawkeyes their biggest loss in five years.
Iowa gets another shot at Michigan today, a chance to show the rest of the Big Ten how far it has come in 12 months. The Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) can clinch at least a .500 record in league play and improve their bowl status if they beat Michigan for a third straight time in Iowa City.
“It was hard to watch,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of last season’s 42-17 loss. “The good news is I think we’re a totally different team than we were a year ago.”
It’s not like the Wolverines (7-3, 3-3) are rolling into Iowa City, either.
Michigan needed a late field goal and three overtimes to beat scuffling Northwestern 27-19 last week, snapping a two-game losing skid. The Wolverines rank next to last in the Big Ten in rushing offense and just seventh in scoring defense.
Opponents have had success blitzing Michigan’s inexperienced line and getting to Gardner. The Hawkeyes aren’t typically aggressive with their linebackers, but they could introduce a few wrinkles defensively to try to prevent a repeat performance from Gardner.
“For us to get there we’ve got to get there with our front four,” Ferentz said. “That is an area we need to improve upon. It’s going to be a challenge. But we certainly can’t let (Gardner) get comfortable back there and we can’t let him get outside, either. He did that a few times last year and we paid for it, both run and pass,” Ferentz said.