Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh made waves with an expression on what it’s like going to Iowa City and trying to beat the Hawkeyes.

“As they say, where top five teams go to die.” said Harbaugh, who has never won at Kinnick Stadium as a coach or player.

I’m not sure who ‘they’ is, but whoever it was has a good point: Going to Kinnick Stadium and coming out with a victory is really freaking hard, even for the best teams in the country.

The Hawkeyes haven’t just played up to their competition, they’ve taken 5 of the last 6 against the goliaths of CFB. Including blowing the doors off of Michigan State & Ohio State. But, Iowa found a way to win in dramatic fashion in half of those games, the most notable one arguably coming against the Michigan Wolverines back in 2016.

It was an ugly 14-13 win, where a C.J. Beathard interception inside 2 minutes down 13-11 wasn’t the nail in the coffin. A 3-and-out followed by a facemask penalty put the Hawkeyes in field goal range, and freshman kicker Keith Duncan made the game-winning kick.

“We didn’t give them anything easy and came up with a couple plays and then played some situations really well,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz. “That’s a good illustration because it felt like we were climbing a high hill the whole game.”

A number that jumps out is Iowa has not surrendered more than 24 points in any of these six contests. Yes, the Hawkeyes have had great units, but it’s the environment that creates such a tough challenge. Defensive back Kaevon Merriweather can’t even fathom what it’s like playing offense through the crowd noise.

“I can barely hear myself and I’m on defense,” Merriweather said. “So I know the offense is having trouble hearing the calls and the snap count.”

“I just think that the way Kinnick is rowdy I don’t think that is something that you can prepare for.”

Quarterback Spencer Petras agrees with Merriweather, and in fact recalled the same Penn State victory last season without prompt.

“I just think back to that Penn State game last year — how much of a factor the crowd was,” Petras said. “But it is really our job to get them in the game and in keeping the game. Our fans, they show up.”

Part of the home-field advantage Iowa has is a crowd pumped up to help their team pull off the upset. Coach Ferentz emphasized at today’s press conference that the players need to have that same intensity, and that the players can’t rely on a loud crowd to win the football game.

“The fans can only do so much, and they’ve been great, and we appreciate that. But we’d better be playing on the field,” Ferentz said bluntly. “Our players need to understand each and every play — it’s like an NFL playoff game; each and every play, something can happen.”

The fourth-ranked Wolverines will be just the seventh top 5 team to roll into Kinnick Stadium in the last 15 seasons. They certainly look the part so far: They’ve outscored their past four opponents by a combined 156 points. For both Michigan and Iowa this game could make or break the 2022 season.

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Linebacker Jestin Jacobs #5 of the Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates with fans after the win over Penn State at Kinnick Stadium on October 9, 2021 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)