Iowa Football

Iowa football look ahead: Michigan really did tear it up after losing 62-39 to Ohio State last year

Jim Harbaugh said bye to 'manball' and hello, 'power spread'

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh throws before the Wolverines' Big Ten Conference college football game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh throws before the Wolverines' Big Ten Conference college football game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Notice there’s less Jim Harbaugh during this quiet college football news cycle.

No satellite camps. No trips to Rome. OK, the Michigan coach did take his team to South Africa (that’s still great, a trip that not a lot of those kids would’ve taken or been able to take). You haven’t heard about a sleepover. There’s no “If worms had machine guns, birds wouldn’t be scared of ’em.”

To keep it local, Harbaugh isn’t jumping into swimming pools.

The 62-39 loss to Ohio State last November did this.

2018 was supposed to be the year. The Wolverines were 10-1 headed into Columbus. Their only loss was to playoff-bound Notre Dame in week 1. Michigan’s defense was the best in the Big Ten. The offense did its job, sitting at No. 3 nationally in time of possession.

Harbaugh football has always wanted to put you in the sleeper hold. You remember the Stanford offenses, the antithesis to Spread America. Three tight ends who couldn’t catch a cold, but wanted to drive block their way to the Pacific Ocean. Harbaugh still has a fascination with fullbacks.

The old Harbaugh rep isn’t all that different from Kirk Ferentz’s. Michigan tight ends were a thing, because Harbaugh made them a thing.

It’s having to win a certain way, the “manball” way. For Iowa, it’s because that’s the general athletic supply. Can Iowa ever allow itself, at least under Ferentz, to entertain a different vision or some sort of variance?

At Michigan, it was how Harbaugh wanted to win. How Harbaugh had won.

Four shots at Ohio State, nothing. No East Division titles, no Big Ten title game appearances. Hey, Harbaugh is 38-14, but that might as well be nothing.

The 62-39 has caused quite the shift.

Twelve days after falling 41-15 to Florida in the Peach Bowl, Harbaugh hired Josh Gattis as offensive coordinator. Gattis, 35, went to Ann Arbor after spending last season as Alabama’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach. Before that, it was three years as receivers coach at Penn State.

The rhetoric has been 100 percent full-go into a spread offense.

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It’s a no-huddle “pro spread” system, Gattis has said. It will take the best pieces of his past stops and meld them into whatever Harbaugh thinks will beat Ohio State this time.

It’s been 14 years without a title for Michigan. People are antsy. Harbaugh’s relative quiet tips his hand, doesn’t it? He doesn’t know where this is going. He’s had 23 assistant coaches, two strength coaches and five starting quarterbacks in less than five years on the job.

Michigan is going to be great college football theater this season.

Michigan skill players

Quarterback Shea Patterson had a solid year after transferring in from Ole Miss. He threw for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns to just seven picks. He had the highest quarterback rating (149.9) of any full-time Michigan starter since the year 2000.

Patterson might benefit most from Michigan shedding “manball.” He’s a spread QB who tried to fit into Harbaugh’s power spread last season. Yes, Patterson can run the ball. He averaged 3.6 yards on 76 carries, which is something if you consider sacks count as a rush for a QB. Also, he rushed for 90 yards against Wisconsin last season. There’s a chance an Iowa QB has never done that against Wisconsin.

The next logical question is how much UM’s talented trio of wide receivers — Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black — will benefit. At the very least, the ball will go in their hands more.

At running back, the Wolverines are probably looking at Running Back By Committee (aka RBBC). The three are freshman Zach Charbonnet (suffered knee injury in the spring), Christian Turner (missed spring with hamstring issues) and Chris Evans, who had 423 yards for the Wolverines last season but is in academic limbo currently.

Michigan defense

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is one of the best. The Wolverines have been one of the nation’s most consistent defenses in each of the last three seasons. But then 62 points allowed in the moment of truth.

The Wolverines have added speed and some zone coverage to the secondary. Will it hold up at 11 a.m. on Nov. 30 at Michigan Stadium?

Super hot, possibly relevant take on this game that’s 100-something days away: Let’s not go crazy with the “Harbaugh really wants to beat down the Hawkeyes because of 2016.” I think we all know by now that football doesn’t work that way. If you have a vendetta against one school, you’re going to leak all over the place and leave yourself open to a weird loss, maybe to Middle Tennessee State (I’m taking Michigan, which also plays MTSU this season).

The Wolverines have Wisconsin in week 3. Maybe that plays in Iowa’s favor. The Badgers sort of suck the life out of you.

Hawkeyes Look Ahead

Oct. 5 at Michigan (Michigan Stadium)

Week before: Middle Tennessee State at Kinnick.

On the horizon: Penn State at Kinnick (hi, 2019 schedule degree of difficulty)

For Michigan

Week before: Rutgers at Michigan Stadium

On the horizon: At Illinois, Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.

Michigan Wolverines

Game: Oct. 5 at Michigan Stadium

Coach: Jim Harbaugh (38-14, 5th season at Michigan)

2018 record: 10-3, 8-1 in Big Ten East Division

Scoring offense: 35.2 points per game (2nd in B1G, 21st nationally — Penn State was 31st at 33.8)

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Total offense: 419.5 yards per game (6th B1G, 50th nationally — two spots ahead of Indiana, 415.2)

Scoring defense: 19.4 points allowed per game (3rd B1G, T-16th nationally — Alabama was 12th at 18.1)

Total defense: 275.2 yards allowed per game (1st B1G, 2nd nationally — Mississippi State was No. 1 with 263.1 yards allowed per game; Iowa finished 7th)

Series: Michigan leads and always will 41-15-4.

Last meeting: Keith Duncan’s 33-yard field goal in the closing seconds allowed Iowa to clip then-No. 2 Michigan, 14-13, at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 12, 2016.

Super early, totally unofficial spread prediction: I’m going to favor the Wolverines in this one. Let’s put it at 6.5. Iowa has won five of the last six vs. Michigan. Harbaugh is going to want this one. The 2016 derailment came out of nowhere and C.J. Beathard’s helmet drank Iowa City dry.

Iowa football look ahead 2019

Miami (Ohio) needs a QB, but it should have a defense

Rutgers isn't financially equipped to be in the Big Ten, but here we are

Iowa State QB Brock Purdy flashed nationally-ranked accuracy numbers as a freshman

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Middle Tennessee State is the kind of program that could give Iowa fits

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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