Western Michigan (0-3) at Iowa (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kinnick Stadium (70,585) -- Iowa City, Iowa. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: WMU 0-1, Iowa 1-1. Away Record: WMU 0-2, Iowa 1-0. Neutral Record: WMU 0-0, Iowa 0-0. Conference Record: WMU 0-0, Iowa 0-0. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The Iowa Hawkeyes take aim at their third consecutive win as they welcome the Western Michigan Broncos to Kinnick Stadium for non-conference action.
The Broncos are still looking for their first win under P.J. Fleck, who is the youngest coach at the FBS level at the age of 32. WMU was handed a 38-17 loss by Northwestern in Evanston last week which dropped it to 0-3 on the season. It opened up the Fleck era with a 26-13 loss at Michigan State and dropped a 27-23 decision at home to FCS opponent Nicholls the following week.
Iowa suffered a 30-27 setback to Fleck's alma mater, Northern Illinois, in its season opener before bouncing back with victories over Missouri State (28-14) and Iowa State (27-21) to climb over the .500 mark. Last week's triumph over the Cyclones in the annual Cy-Hawk series rivalry game gave the program its 600th win all-time. This will be the final non-conference game for coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes, who begin their Big Ten slate next week at Minnesota.
This will be the third meeting in history between WMU and Iowa. The Broncos have won both previous encounters that both took place in Iowa City. The series has been idle since WMU's 28-19 win over the Hawkeyes on Nov. 17, 2007.
Fleck's offense has been atrocious this season, averaging only 344.7 yards and 17.7 points per contest. Senior quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen has been able to surpass the 200-yard mark through the air in two-straight games. He struggled with his accuracy last week against Northwestern, finishing with 202 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on 16-of-41 passing.
WMU has a promising freshman wideout in Corey Davis, who caught five passes for 112 yards and a touchdown last week. The rookie has tallied 324 yards on 21 receptions through the first three games of his career. Timmy Keith is the team's second most productive option in the passing game with 122 yards on 10 catches.
The Broncos have not been able to establish the run consistently this season and have gained only 3.8 yards per carry. Brian Fields is the top back on the team with 206 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries. Last season, Dareyon Chance finished 11th in the MAC in rushing with 78.9 ypg. He has averaged only 54 ypg this season but that mark could improve once WMU enters league play because he still gets a fair share of work out of the backfield.
The Broncos had their worst defensive showing of 2013 last week as the Wildcats racked up 31 first downs and 471 yards of total offense, including 332 on the ground. They have been decent against the pass with only 160 ypg allowed through the air, but have given up eight touchdowns and five field goals in 14 red zone opportunities on the season. Last week, Mike Jones had a game-high 10 tackles. Justin Currie finished with eight tackles and his second career interception.
WMU's defense will have its hands full against Iowa's power rushing attack that features juniors Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock. Weisman is third among all FBS players in rushing yards with 425 after he surpassed the century mark for the third straight contest and gained a career-high 35 times for 145 yards against ISU last week. Bullock provides a speedy change of pace which keeps opposing defenses off-balance. The tandem has been a big reason why the Hawkeyes produce 239.3 ypg on the ground.
First-year QB Jake Rudock has also contributed to the running game with four touchdowns and 63 yards in three games. After throwing one touchdown against two interceptions in his first two starts, Rudock completed 14-of-23 attempts for 160 yards and two touchdowns to lift Iowa over its rival. Kevonte Martin- Manley made seven catches for 60 yards and a score. He has more than three times as many receptions (19) and yards (163) than any of his teammates.
Defensively, Iowa is a very solid unit with only 318 yards and 21 points allowed per game. Its opponents have managed to score only one touchdown in four red zone trips. Christian Kirksey anchored the Hawkeyes' defense with 11 total stops versus ISU. Senior linebacker Anthony Hitchens has registered a team-best 31 tackles along with three tackles for loss and a sack.
This will be the weakest Big Ten team of the three WMU faces this season, but Fleck's chances of collecting his first career win are still slim. The Broncos have way too many holes on the defensive side of the ball which will make stopping a powerful runner like Weisman next to impossible. Iowa could have trouble if Ruddock makes too many mistakes, but the burden of carrying the offense will most likely fall on the running backs.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 30, Western Michigan 17
09/18 10:32:13 ET