ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michigan football still has three rivals and five ranked teams left on its schedule, but no game is as pivotal as the one it faces this weekend.
Undefeated Iowa is coming to town as the No. 14 team in the country, and it might be the last chance for Michigan to get on an extended winning streak.
The Wolverines still haven't recovered from the public perception hit they took in the blowout loss to Wisconsin. A 52-0 win over Rutgers certainly doesn't have people buying back in.
But a win over a team as good as Iowa? That would go a long way toward putting Michigan back on track.
When Michigan fell behind 35-0 in Madison two weeks ago, it was buried by the college football world. Nobody is considering the Wolverines for a playoff berth or Big Ten title, or even a major bowl game, for that matter.
A loss to Iowa would validate the doubters as Michigan stares down the barrel of a possible five- or six-loss season.
If Michigan can't beat Iowa, it likely won't stand much of a chance against Ohio State, Notre Dame or Penn State. The Michigan State and Maryland games would also be up in the air.
Obviously, a loss to Iowa could send the season spiraling out of control.
But again, it's also a great opportunity for redemption.
With a win, Michigan would head into Illinois on a two-game winning streak and an impressive victory over an objectively good team. Beating Rutgers by 52 points doesn't mean much, but beating Rutgers by 52 and following it up with a win over a top 15 opponent sounds a lot better.
Consider this scenario: Michigan beats Iowa at home, takes care of business against Illinois and goes into Penn State with a 5-1 record. After the way the first half went against Wisconsin, that wouldn't sound so bad.
The alternative sounds like a disaster.
The Ohio State game will always be the most important game on the schedule, and Michigan also has Notre Dame and Michigan State as massive home games. But in terms of shaping the direction of the season, no game is bigger than Iowa.
On Saturday, we'll learn if the real Michigan football is the one that got stomped at Wisconsin or the one that obliterated Rutgers.
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