Iowa enters the Big House looking for statement win

The No. 14 Hawkeyes travel to Ann Arbor to face off against No. 19 Michigan in a battle of Big Ten hopefuls.

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Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley carries the ball during a football game between Iowa and Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, September 14, 2019. The Hawkeyes retained the Cy-Hawk Trophy for the fifth consecutive year, downing the Cyclones, 18-17.

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

Big games are meant to be played on a big stage, and the stage doesn’t get much bigger than the Big House.

A crowd of roughly 108,000 passionate college football fans will be on hand in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when the No. 14 Hawkeyes take on the No. 19 Wolverines. The game is the latest renewal of a Big Ten rivalry that Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been involved in for decades.

“Looking at Michigan, things really haven’t changed since the first time I was ever exposed to them in person, 1981,” Ferentz said. “First of all, they’re one of the premier football programs in the history of college football. They’ve been good for a long time, and when you look at them, typically, they’re very talented. That’s certainly the case with this group.”

Michigan does not carry the same amount of hype in the preseason rankings. The Wolverines entered the season ranked No. 7 overall but have struggled through the first four games.

That includes a blowout loss to Wisconsin in which the 35-14 score doesn’t do justice to how much Michigan was truly outplayed.

Michigan may have fallen in the rankings, but Iowa still sees the Wolverines as a threat.

“They can do a lot of things,” linebacker Djimon Colbert said. “They have a lot of great skill players. It’s Michigan; it’s what they have every year.”

Leading the offense that Colbert and the rest of the Iowa defense will attempt to slow down on Oct. 5 is quarterback Shea Patterson. He was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell Awards a year ago and will be a focus for the Iowa defense both in the passing game and the rushing game.

Patterson ran for 3 touchdowns in Michigan’s 52-0 beat down of Rutgers in Week 5.

“Their quarterback is a great leader,” Colbert said. “He can do stuff with his legs. They know how to run the zone read, how to get the ball in [Patterson’s] hands and get some blockers in front of him. It’s something we definitely have to account for this week.”

A key hurdle that both the Iowa offense and defense will be forced to deal with in Ann Arbor is the hostile crowd. The Hawkeyes have experience this season winning in Iowa State’s territory, but the Big House presents an entirely different challenge.

“We’ve definitely got to be ready for the crowd noise,” Colbert said. “That’s something we try to prepare for during the week. We try to turn the stereos up during practice, but you can’t really simulate something like they have up there — roughly 100,000 people, so it’s going to get pretty loud.”

Despite the challenge a road crowd can present — particularly one as fierce as Michigan’s — Colbert revels in the environment.

“We’ve been in that situation before at Iowa State, in a packed stadium with the crowd juiced up,” Colbert said. “If you’re a competitor, you love being in those situations where you’re not welcome, you’re not the joy of the town. You feed off that, and it helps you play better.”

Iowa certainly will not be the joy of the town when it takes the field in Ann Arbor. Nonetheless, quarterback Nate Stanley, among others, said he’s excited to check playing in the Big House off of the bucket list.

“Obviously, it’s a great environment,” he said. “[The Big House] is one of the historic venues in college football. It should be a special opportunity to go in and play in an environment like that.”

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