Iowa City, IA - Iowa is off to its best start in 14 years, but getting there hasn't been easy.
It's uncertain which Iowa team will show up Saturday night when the 12th-ranked Hawkeyes try to remain perfect against Michigan in a Big Ten contest at Kinnick Stadium.
Oddsmakers from online sports book BetOnline have made Iowa -8 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on Michigan +8 (View College Football bet percentages).
Iowa (5-0, 1-0) has won nine straight dating to last season, and is undefeated through five games for the first time since 1995. The Hawkeyes haven't won their first six contests since going 7-0 under Hayden Fry in 1985.
That was also the last time Iowa was ranked higher than Michigan (4-1, 1-1) heading into their game. The then-top-ranked Hawkeyes beat the No. 2 Wolverines 12-10 at Kinnick.
Ranked 22nd last week, Michigan dropped out of the Top 25 after falling 26-20 in overtime at Michigan State last Saturday. The Wolverines have won the last three meetings with Iowa, but this will be the first matchup since 2006. The Hawkeyes last beat Michigan 30-27 on Oct. 4, 2003.
Iowa, though, hopes it will show the same focus this weekend as it did in outplaying Iowa State and then-No. 5 Penn State earlier this year.
As solid and balanced the Hawkeyes looked in those victories, they were equally as inconsistent in a 17-16 season-opening win over Northern Iowa and last week's 24-21 victory over Arkansas State.
"I've been around this thing long enough where I don't worry so much how you get there, just a matter of getting there,'' coach Kirk Ferentz said of remaining undefeated.
After forcing four turnovers and holding the Nittany Lions to 307 total yards, the Hawkeyes almost squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves returned an interception for a touchdown late and scored the most points allowed by the Hawkeyes this season.
While quarterback Rick Stanzi threw for a season-high 296 yards and three touchdowns, the Hawkeyes rushed for 124 yards - 15 yards below their season average.
"It's a good thing that we have things we can still be working on, because we're far from perfect," said Stanzi, who's thrown eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The Hawkeyes' defense, however, has been strong enough to keep them undefeated. The unit ranks third in the league allowing 13.4 points and second with 14 forced turnovers. Iowa has not allowed a rushing touchdown in 33 quarters dating to last season.
Iowa will face a young, but proficient Michigan offense that should be hungry after being held to a season-low 251 yards - including 28 rushing - at Michigan State.
Michigan's athletic freshman quarterback Tate Forcier's scrambling abilities are similar to Northern Iowa's Pat Grace and Arkansas State's Corey Leonard - the two signal-callers who've had success against Iowa this season.
"He's got a great presence out there, and he is a playmaker. He can improvise, which is the sign of a good quarterback,'' Ferentz said of Forcier, who's third in the Big Ten with a 142.69 passer rating and has rushed for 154 yards. "He can get out of trouble with his feet, and he can certainly hurt you with his throwing.''
Forcier, who led the Wolverines to comeback victories over Notre Dame and Indiana, rallied his team with two fourth-quarter touchdowns before throwing a key interception in overtime against the Spartans.
"Our team doesn't give up,'' said Forcier, who was 17 of 32 for 223 yards last week. "We're going to keep fighting until the game is over.''
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has been able to live with Forcier's growing pains since the Wolverines are second in the conference averaging 34.0 points per contest.
"Tate's a very conscientious guy - he'll learn from this,'' Rodriguez said. "He'll keep growing and getting better from this day.''
Though Michigan has won six of its last seven games at Iowa City, it's lost five of six on the road dating to last season.
Posted: 10/6/09 8:32PM ET