ANN ARBOR, Mich. If you compare scores, it could be difficult for Michigan to take Iowa seriously.
After all, the Hawkeyes are coming off a loss to Minnesota, a team that got drilled by Michigan, 58-0, in the Big Ten opener.
Brady Hoke has too much respect for coach Kirk Ferentzs program to believe the Hawkeyes wont respond Saturday when the teams play at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
It will be the most physical game to this point for us as a team, Hoke said.
Now hold on, coach.
Two games ago, the Wolverines got shoved around by Michigan State so badly that safety Jordan Kovacs admitted, They beat us up.
It was Hokes only loss in his first year as Michigan coach.
Asked to elaborate on the Hawkeyes physicality, Hoke said, Probably a lot of it is history. Ive always loved, as a coach, watching Iowa.
Just to confirm, Hoke was asked whether he was indeed including Michigan State.
Oh yeah, he said.
Hoke said when hes scouting an opponent, he always watches that teams game against Iowa first because of how they (Iowa) play defense.
I always thought they were well-coached, physical, Hoke said. If youre a D-line coach, this is fun. I love this.
As for Iowas surprising loss to seemingly lowly Minnesota, Hoke said, Minnesotas a lot better team now than they were five weeks ago, a heck of a lot better.
Since Hoke took over last January, he has constantly stressed that championships are won in November in the Big Ten.
The Wolverines enter November tied for first place in the Big Ten Legends Division with Michigan State and Nebraska.
Its nice to actually be in the hunt, center David Molk said.
Molk, a senior, is used to playing on teams that were already out of the conference race by now.
This year, the Wolverines are in contention with four games remaining. Besides Iowa, Michigan also plays on the road against Illinois next week before closing with two home games against Nebraska and Ohio State.
All four are near toss-ups. The Wolverines, realistically, could go 4-0. They also, realistically, could go 0-4.
Defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen takes a lot of pride in this 7-1 start considering where the team has been in recent years.
But Van Bergen knows the teams final, all-important chapter will be written in November.
It means everything but it also means nothing, Van Bergen said of the first seven victories. Its great that were here. Were very proud of the fact we were able to rally as a team with a new coaching staff and basically with the odds stacked against us.
But if we stumble in these last four games, its going to mean nothing.
Hoke confirmed that Fitzgerald Toussaint, a third-year sophomore whos been injury-prone until recently, has separated himself as the teams clear-cut No. 1 running back. Toussaint rushed for 170 yards on 20 carries against Purdue.
Kovacs (knee), who didnt play Saturday, is questionable for the Iowa game. Jordans a competitor, Van Bergen said. I know hell be back this week. Troy Woolfolk moved from cornerback to strong safety to replace Kovacs in the starting lineup.
A major concern over the final four weeks will be staying healthy on the offensive line. Left guard Ricky Barnum (ankle) is questionable while left tackle Taylor Lewan (ankle, knee) is probable. Depth on our offensive line is probably as low as Ive ever seen, Hoke said.
Hoke said sophomore Stephen Hopkins has moved ahead of fifth-year senior John McColgan as the No. 1 fullback.
Michigans opponents have fumbled 16 times in eight games. The Wolverines have recovered 14 of those or 87.5 percent.
Quote of the week
Van Bergen, on the pink visiting locker rooms at Iowas Kinnick Stadium, intended to make opponents more passive: I love the pink locker room. I think it gives it a nice dcor. The fengshui really feels good before a game. As you get in there and see the pink, it warms you up. Its very welcoming. I think more teams should go with pink. Its better than the off-white jail cell look. I say paint em up.