Oct. 5 NCAA Football Picks and Preview — No. 14 Iowa (4-0) at No. 19 Michigan (3-1)

(Nate Stanley photo courtesy Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 5, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich., Noon EDT.

Fourteenth-ranked Iowa looks to burnish its national credentials Saturday and extend its recent mastery of No. 19 Michigan as the Big Ten rivals meet in an interdivisional clash at The Big House in Ann Arbor.

The Hawkeyes (1-0 Big Ten West) are one of three 4-0 teams in the West Division with No. 8 Wisconsin and Minnesota and tuned up for this high-profile showdown by routing Middle Tennessee 48-3 on Saturday. Nate Stanley and Brandon Smith hooked up on a pair of touchdown passes while Toren Young had 131 yards on 11 carries to pace a Hawkeyes ground game that churned out 351 yards while averaging 6.9 per carry.

Iowa has won five of the last six meetings between the teams, with the lone loss coming in its last visit to Michigan — a 42-17 defeat in 2012. The Hawkeyes, though, have split their last four contests in Ann Arbor and came away victorious the last two times they entered The Big House nationally ranked.

Michigan (3-1, 1-1 East) took out the frustrations of its embarrassing loss at Wisconsin on hapless Rutgers, administering a 52-0 pounding at home Saturday that contributed to the firing of Scarlet Knights coach Chris Ash the following day. Shea Patterson threw for 276 yards and a touchdown while adding three short scoring runs for the Wolverines, who conceded just 152 yards and 10 first downs.

It was Patterson’s best game of the season in first-year coordinator Josh Gattis’ system as the two continue their efforts to streamline the offense. Patterson has thrown for 905 yards and six touchdowns but has completed just 59.3 percent of his passes — well off his 64.6 mark in 2018.

Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh is 8-11 against AP Top 25 teams since arriving at Michigan in 2015, including a 5-8 mark versus Big Ten foes.

Hawkeyes looking for first 5-0 start in four seasons

Iowa’s last 5-0 start came in 2015, when it went 12-0 in the regular season before losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and Stanford in the Rose Bowl left a bitter taste.

The Hawkeyes feel it is possible that the road to victory in this game lies in the turnover battle. Iowa has committed just one giveaway back in its season-opening victory over Miami of Ohio and has a plus-5 turnover margin. In contrast, the Wolverines have committed 10 and are minus-4 heading into the contest.

“(Ferentz) talks about turnover ratio,” defensive back Michael Ojemudia told the Des Moines Register. “Coach Parker talks about big plays and how that leads to points.”

Ojemudia has two of Iowa’s three interceptions, and ball-hawking has been a trademark of Hawkeyes defenses in recent years. Their 44 picks dating back to the start of the 2017 season are tied for the most among FBS teams, but the Hawkeyes have not recorded any in the last two contests.

The Farmington Hills, Michigan native returns home and despite having an older brother (Mario) play for the Wolverines from 2012-15 as a defensive end, he never received an offer.

“In practicality, it would be good to treat it like any other game,” said Ojemudia. “But it’s not really just any other game, going into that stadium, things can get personal. But the thing is, during the game you just have to stay focused. They’re going to come with their best shot. In hindsight, it was disappointing (not getting an offer from Michigan), but the way Iowa approached me, they had a lot to sell. So I wasn’t worried about not going there.”

Add a Michigan team to the mix coming off its best passing performance of the season with 335 yards at 12.41 per attempt, and the urgency of Iowa’s secondary delivering a big performance — specifically redshirt freshman cornerback D.J. Johnson — is understandable.

“He’s growing up faster than we expected,” Ojemudia said of Johnson. “He has miles to go. But we know that as of now, we’re going to need him to have his best game. If we neutralize the outside, we have the best chance of winning. This game is going to be up to us.”

Iowa did receive some good news on the injury front as left tackle Alaric Jackson has been practicing this week and could start for the first time since suffering a knee injury in the first quarter against the RedHawks. Iowa is 29th in the country in rushing at 217.5 yards per game and will be eager to test a Michigan defense that was bludgeoned by Wisconsin for 359 on the ground.

Stanley, who has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 915 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception, has gone 136 attempts without being picked off dating back to last season’s Outback Bowl win over Mississippi State.

Wolverines out to control tempo versus Iowa

Though it did not take much effort in beating Rutgers, one thing that stood out for Michigan was a long-sought commitment to running the ball, which allowed Gattis to play-call from a position of proactiveness as opposed to the previous two games against both Wisconsin and Army.

That, in turn, allowed Patterson to be at his most effective, and the results were not lost on the Wolverines.

“It was huge. I think it was a confidence boost for the team,” guard Ben Brederson told the Detroit Free Press. “Just getting up on a team early rather than coming back. Different approach and we’re absolutely in favor of that.

“Then,” Bredeson added, “we don’t have to be in such obvious passing situations and that helps our protection a lot.”

It also helps that Patterson does have three solid options to throw to in Ronnie Bell, Nico Collins, and Tarik Black. All three receivers have at least 10 catches and averaging at least 15.5 yards. Michigan is sixth in the Big Ten in passing at 261.5 yards per game but fourth with 13.76 yards per completion.

Simply put, Michigan got itself right against an overmatched Rutgers squad, and Harbaugh knows the real test for his team is maintaining that level of consistency on a week-to-week basis as the Wolverines open a stretch of three ranked opponents in their next four games. That includes a critical division showdown at No. 12 Penn State and a rare mid-season clash with ninth-ranked Notre Dame.

“If you can play two really good games in a row, it’ll be a trend in my mind. Three or more will become a habit so we’re trying to cement that as a goal for us and that’s where we want to be,” Harbaugh said at his weekly availability. “(Iowa) is consistently good and have been for many years. One of the things that strikes you the most about them is that they’re consistently really good at all three phases. Good in experience, and good at consistency.”

Notable Trends

Michigan is:

  • 1-4 ATS in its last five conference games.
  • 1-7 ATS in its last eight games.
  • 4-12 ATS in its last 16 games following an ATS win.

Iowa is:

  • 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games after allowing less than 100 rushing yards in its previous game.

General:

  • The underdog is 11-3 ATS in the last 14 games between the teams.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Iowa OVER 21.5 points (-115)

This is more of an anti-Michigan pick than it is pro-Hawkeyes, but there is confidence in them at least not turning the ball over with an experienced quarterback in Stanley under center. Iowa is similar to Wisconsin in many ways, and everyone saw how well that played out for Michigan two weeks ago.

The Wolverines are at home, which helps, but there is no aura of invincibility to them, which should allow the Hawkeyes to be their methodical yet effective selves.

****4-Star Pick****

Iowa +4 (-110)

In a sign of just how much expectations have been lowered for Michigan, the line for this game in the preseason had the Wolverines favored by 13 points.

Taking Iowa on the road is admittedly a risky pick, but the Hawkeyes are a team that does not get rattled easily. Having a senior quarterback in Stanley — another unflappable presence — is a huge bonus playing in the Big House, as is being a disciplined team that does not commit many turnovers.

There is more pressure on Harbaugh in this game than he likely cares to admit, especially after the nature of the Wisconsin loss in which Michigan was manhandled with ease. Iowa has the potential to do the same with its offensive line, especially if Jackson is back at left tackle since he gives the Hawkeyes two likely NFL-bound players on the offensive line along with Tristan Wirfs, who would move back to his customary spot on the right side.

Iowa may not win this game, but a last-second field goal deciding this contest would not be surprising in the least. The line has also moved a half-point in Michigan’s favor, which this space will gladly take in what should be a tight contest.

***3-Star Picks***

OVER 47.5 points (-110)

The over has been trending strongly with both teams, going 8-1 in Iowa’s last nine road games and 5-1 in Michigan’s last six in conference play. The over is 8-3 in the Hawkeyes’ last 11 Big Ten matchups and 10-4-1 in their last 15 overall.

Iowa has an underrated offense that has production at wide receiver this season in contrast to years past when it was centered at tight end. That plus a running back-by-committee approach gives the Hawkeyes enough firepower to match Michigan and give the over a close win.

This number inched one-half point higher closer to kickoff, but since it is not on a TD or TD+FG combination, there is little worry the hook on that number will be disruptive.

Iowa +3 first half (-115)

The Hawkeyes have yielded just 14 first-half points in their four games this season. While Michigan will be the best offense they have faced to date, there is enough confidence in Iowa hanging around to keep things close and getting a late field goal that pulls it through with the number.

Michigan has been up and down in the first half at home this season, most notably trailing at halftime against Army.

OVER 23 points first half (-110)

This pick is more about the number than expecting an offensive shootout to take place in the first two quarters, with the total a full point below a reachable TD+FG combination for both teams. Michigan bounced back from its debacle versus Wisconsin with 24 first-half points versus Rutgers, and Iowa has totaled 61 first-half points in its four contests.

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