Michigan is a heavy favorite Saturday but Iowa will be tough under the lights at home
Nobody’s picking against Michigan this weekend.
The Wolverines are pegged as favorites by more than three touchdowns and ESPN’s Power Football Index gives them a 91.2 percent chance to beat Iowa in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday night. You’re not going to receive much pushback about Michigan’s odds to finish the 10-0.
Given the Hawkeyes’ inconsistent play, there isn’t much reason to believe they will put up a fight, either. Iowa was eviscerated by Penn State in Happy Valley a weekend ago and showed no signs of life at any time in the contest. So it would seem that Saturday’s game is a foregone conclusion.
Michigan wins. Iowa loses. Let’s move on to Week 12.
Hit the breaks on that thought, or at least slow down the car.
Iowa may not have a very good shot to win Saturday. It’s now pretty well-known that the Hawkeyes aren’t the same team that made it through last year’s regular season unscathed. But when it comes to night games at Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeyes seem to exceed expectations. That’s why this weekend’s match-up with Michigan might be worthy of a second thought.
Since 2010, Iowa has played in six night games in Iowa City. During that time, the Hawkeyes have posted a 5-1 record. The most impressive victory came in 2010 when they knocked of No. 22 Penn State 24-3 early in the season. Since that time they’ve handed losses to Northwestern, Minnesota, Pitt and Iowa State under the lights at Kinnick Stadium.
The only loss?
A 38-14 defeat at the hands of Penn State in 2012. That loss sparked a six-game losing streak and the Hawkeyes finished the year 4-8.
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) November 8, 2016
Night games in Kinnick Stadium seem to provide a spark for Iowa’s offense. More times than not, the Hawkeyes seem to win these games in a shootout. They’ve eclipsed the 40-point mark three times and are averaging 34.8 points per game in the five wins. From 2010 through today they’re averaging 26.9 points per contest.
Saturday is going to be a more difficult challenge. Michigan is – by far – the best team the Hawkeyes have faced in this situation in a long time. The Wolverines are leading the country in scoring defense and rank third in scoring offense. Another 40-point performance under the lights probably isn’t in the cards for a 5-4 team.
But the excitement of an evening game could give Iowa a much-needed boost. There’s no question that it has provided some sort of fire for teams in the past. Who says this year can’t be the same?
Michigan is still a heavy favorite. It would still be a surprise if the Wolverines weren’t still undefeated when they left Iowa City on Saturday night. But don’t count the Hawkeyes completely out of this contest.
Kinnick Stadium can be one of the conference’s toughest places to play. Though Iowa has been inconsistent, it isn’t a team that you’re going to be able to push over. Not in front of a home crowd.
Whatever mojo finds its way to the locker room after the sun sets in Iowa City needs to make another appearance. A win on Saturday could be the high point of an otherwise mediocre season. Maybe the Hawkeyes have saved their best performance for the biggest game on its home turf.
Could an upset be in the works? Probably not. But the circumstances are favorable for the Hawkeyes – at least if they were going to be able to pull off the unthinkable.
Michigan might be in for a better game than most are expecting.