Does anyone else remember the movie “Dumb and Dumber?” Jim Carey’s Lloyd Christmas is the pinnacle of optimism in terms of overcoming a negative situation.

Remember when Mary told Lloyd that his chances of swooping in and stealing her heart were one in a million? Remember Lloyd’s response?

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” Christmas uttered to a perplexed Mary. “Yeah!”

Iowa is far from contending for a College Football Playoff berth. The way Minnesota has played through 4 weeks of the season, the Hawkeyes might not even be the favorite to win the B1G West. An inept offense led by quarterback Spencer Petras — not helped by a limited and unimaginative play palette from coordinator Brian Ferentz — has done little to push the ball downfield. And while the rushing attack is stable, take that away and what does Iowa have left? 

Michigan, a top 4 team and frontrunner in the B1G, will enter Kinnick Stadium for Saturday’s early game on Fox as a 10.5-point favorite, according to FanDuel. Its rushing attack led by Blake Corum currently ranks 12th among FBS programs and 2nd in the conference. Freshman wunderkind JJ McCarthy is completing 80% of his passes and averaging 11.6 yards per attempt.

In all aspects, Iowa is the underdog. Heck, it’s been the underdog in most matchups against top 5 teams since the turn of the century due to inefficient offensive production. That hasn’t stopped the Hawkeyes from going 5-1 in games against teams ranked in the top 5 over the past 14 seasons when playing in Iowa City.

So yes, Iowa fans. Celebrate as Christmas would. The past is telling you there’s a chance.


For Iowa to win at home against the Wolverines, it will have to be more fundamentally sound on offense. Petras, who’s thrown 1 touchdown pass in 4 games, will need to find the end zone with his arm. The Hawkeyes will need to control the time of possession as well to eliminate drives for the Wolverines.

Then again, it all comes down to stopping Jim Harbaugh’s offense. Every year Iowa has pulled off a top-5 upset, the opposing offense has stalled for most of the spectacle, allowing the Hawkeyes to chip away and pick up a win.

Want proof? Let’s look back at each win:

  • 2008 — No. 3 Penn State’s offense totaled 289 yards and couldn’t score through the air. Nittany Lions QB Daryll Clark went 9-of-23 passing and tossed a costly interception in the fourth quarter, leading to a game-winning 31-yard field goal from Daniel Murray.
  • 2010 — No. 5 Michigan State finished with 285 yards of offense compared to Iowa’s 352. Spartans QB Kirk Cousins looked like himself on primetime with the Minnesota Vikings, tossing 3 interceptions en route to a 31-6 loss.
  • 2016 — No. 2 Michigan finished with fewer first downs (14-17), fewer total yards (201-203) and more turnovers (2-1) than Iowa on its way to being upset 14-13. The Wolverines also lost the time of possession battle by nearly 6 minutes.
  • 2017 — No. 3 Ohio State posted a season-low in points (24) and passing yards (208) to go along with JT Barrett’s 4 interceptions. Hawkeyes QB Nate Stanley threw for 226 yards and a season-high 5 touchdowns.
  • 2021 — No. 4 Penn State totaled 4 turnovers and was penalized 10 times on its way to a 23-20 loss. At least that season Iowa was ranked No. 3, making it more of a “quality loss” for James Franklin’s squad.

Do you see the picture? Sure, Iowa’s offense came to life in those games, but its defense also held opponents to low yardage totals. The Hawkeyes caused at least 3 turnovers in 3 of the matchups and capitalized on a 4th in 2008.

The formula works.

And the Hawkeyes are so good at what they do in Kinnick that they can hang around even when they go astray from the formula.

Take for instance the Hawkeyes’ 2017 loss to Penn State. The Nittany Lions totaled a whopping 579 yards led by running back Saquon Barkley. And while Iowa forced a pair of turnovers, it lost the battle in first downs (29-11) and time of possession (39:39-20:21). The crazy part of that game is the fact that Iowa nearly won. Even with inefficient offensive production, the Hawkeyes forced Penn State to fight for 60 minutes before Trace McSorley connected with Juwan Johnson for a 7-yard TD pass as time expired.

If a Hawkeyes defender gets his hand on that ball, Iowa is 6-0 at home against the giants of the B1G when they’re ranked in the top 5.

Game-planning for Michigan

McCarthy is limited in terms of rep count passing. Last week, he threw a season-high 26 passes against Maryland. As the attempts went up, the completion rate went down. McCarthy finished completing a season-low 69.2% of his throws for 220 yards and was sacked twice.

If the Hawkeyes take away the run game, McCarthy will have to pass. Iowa might be able to eliminate Donovan Edwards and Corum on the ground. Currently, the Hawkeyes rank 6th in run defense, holding opponents to 73 yards per game, causing a pair of fumbles and allowing no rushing TDs.

Yes, Michigan is going to be favored. Sure, Iowa’s offense is doing little to strengthen its case as a contender. That’s happened before. It’ll happen again.

Sometimes, the right Saturday is all it takes for a team to find its mojo. The Hawkeyes in intense matchups always keep things close when playing at Kinnick. History backs the findings.

Consider Oct. 1 Lloyd Christmas Day on Iowa’s campus. Maybe the results will turn out better for the Hawkeyes than our hero of the ’90s cult classic.

Either way, history is telling Iowa fans there’s a chance for an upset.