Iowa Hawkeyes, Michigan Wolverines Meet in New Year's Day Qualifier

By Derek Helling
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After today’s game in Iowa City, either the Iowa Hawkeyes or Michigan Wolverines will have an inside track for a spot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, one of the Big Ten‘s tie-in bowls that will be played on New Year’s Day. The loser will likely have to settle for the Texas Bowl played on December 27.

Simply going by the numbers, the Hawkeyes have earned the home favorite status in this game. Iowa averages almost 60 more rushing yards per game than Michigan does and has the ninth-best total defense in all of FBS. The teams are dead even in turnover margin, but the Hawkeyes are much more efficient at converting third downs and forcing punts. Add that to the fact that this game is played in Kinnick Stadium, where Iowa has won the last two meetings between these teams, and it looks like the Hawkeyes should win this game easily.

Michigan, however, has the kind of talent at quarterback that has given the Hawkeye defense fits. In Iowa’s first game, Northern Illinois‘ duel-threat signal caller Jordan Lynch went into Kinnick Stadium and beat the Iowa defense with both his arm and feet. Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner, while not producing at a level like Lynch, has a number of the same abilities. If Gardner can put the Hawkeye defense on its heels and cause confusion with the variety of looks, Michigan might be able to steal a win here.

Most likely this game is going to come down to a battle between the Wolverines’ 13th-ranked run defense and the Hawkeyes’ 42nd-ranked running attack. Whichever team is able to impose its will on the other will come out on top of this contest. Winning this game, as previously mentioned, could earn that team an invite to Dallas on New Year’s Day.

Derek Helling is a writer for Follow him on Twitter, “like” him on Facebook and add him on Google+. Read more here

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