Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's been a long grind in the Iowa-Northwestern series for the Hawkeyes

The Iowa Hawkeyes (3-2, 0-1 B1G Legends) have lost the last five out of six games over the Northwestern Wildcats (2-3, 0-2 B1G Legends) , with three straight losses in the series at home. Both teams are a combined 0-3 in the B1G heading into the 6 p.m. kickoff at Kinnick Stadium on the Big Ten Network on Saturday night.

Iowa's last win in the series was in 2007 in Evanston, when the Hawkeyes, a +1 road underdog, beat Northwestern 28-17. Ironically, Iowa's last loss to both Iowa State and Penn State, before this season was in 2007. So, does it mean anything on Saturday for Iowa? We shall see.

Northwestern has beat Iowa five games, in the past six:

  • 28-27 in 2005 in Evanston, Northwestern was a +3 underdog

  • 21-7 in 2006 in Iowa City, Northwestern was a +20 underdog

  • 22-17 in 2008 in Iowa City, Northwestern was a +8 underdog

  • 17-10 in 2009 in Iowa City, Northwestern was a +15 underdog

  • 21-17 in 2010 in Iowa City, Northwestern was a +10 underdog

Iowa hasn't held Northwestern to less than 17 points, since the 2002 win in Iowa's 62-10 victory at home. Iowa ruined Northwestern's Rose Bowl bid in 2000, with a 27-17 win at Kinnick. The Wildcats were coming off a 54-51 shootout at home vs. Michigan. Iowa won the 2001 game in Evanston 59-16.

In the game that cried, "bring on instant replay," in Kirk Ferentz's first season as Iowa's head coach, Northwestern beat Iowa 26-24 in Evanston in 1999, after an apparent fumble on their final scoring drive. The call on the field was player was down. If replay had been used in the game, indisputable evidence was fumble on the field. Northwestern kept the ball inside and scored the final TD in the closing seconds. The Big Ten Conference at the end of the season commented about the mistake on the field. The talk of using replay in Big Ten games was on the radar.

Iowa has a true sophomore at placekicker and a fifth year senior walkon at punter. Iowa PK Mike Meyer, like punter Eric Guthrie, arrived at Iowa as a walkon. Special teams will be very important on Saturday. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, like Kirk Ferentz for Iowa, takes pride in special teams and taking advantage of turnovers and mistakes from their opponents. In Iowa's lost in 2008, five Iowa turnovers fueled Northwestern to a 22-17 win over the Hawkeyes on Homecoming. Turnovers have been a problem in Iowa's losses.

Iowa will enjoy Homecoming next Saturday, with a game vs. Indiana (1-4, 0-2 B1G Legends). By the way, the Hoosiers play at Wisconsin on Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN2, as the Badgers (5-0, 1-0 B1G Leaders) come off a bye week.

Iowa doesn't have a strong defense in 2011. However, in the B1G opener in Happy Valley, the Hawkeyes held Penn State to only 13 points. The problem was on offense for the Hawkeyes, where Iowa only mustered three points, with only one red zone appearance the entire day. The defense wasn't pretty for Iowa, but the offense needed to be checked for a pulse, after the first quarter. Penn State's defense is good, but how good?

Opportunity knocks! Iowa opens the next four out of five games of the 2011 season at Kinnick Stadium. Ferentz's squad looks for success against the 'new' Wildcats on Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium.

"It's going to be a big challenge for our football team. We are excited to be
back in Kinnick again where our fans continue to be absolutely fantastic. It
should be a great environment, too." - Kirk Ferentz.

Iowa fans, as well as the Iowa's defense, have one big concern on Saturday night, with Northwestern's quarterback Dan Persa. The Northwestern quarterback has given the Hawkeyes fits in the past. Dispite being slowed by a torn Achilles tendon on the final TD play in last year's Iowa win, Persa has now returned for B1G play and ranks number four in passing efficiency.

Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg had a rude awakening in Happy Valley last Saturday. Vandenberg's first major game day experience, was when Ricky Stanzi went down vs. Northwestern in the 2009 game. Iowa opened the game up 10-0 in 2009, but the Stanzi injury early in the second quarter on a sack, fumble and touchdown, threw Vandenberg into a 10-7 game against the Wildcats, as a redshirt freshman. The Wildcats scored 10 straight and won 17-10 to continue the streak.

How will Vandenberg rebound on Saturday? Iowa entered last week's Big Ten Penn State upbeat about a no-huddle offense. Vandenberg was a leader in all games in passing efficiency, but with two interceptions and no touchdowns at Penn State, his numbers dropped. Entering the B1G, Vandenberg had ten touchdowns and only one interception in leading Iowa to a 3-1 start. Can the Iowa offense find some Mojo vs. a Northwestern defense that ranks among the B1G and nation's weakest?

For Iowa to win on Saturday, the Hawkeyes will have to score touchdowns. The Iowa defense will have to keep tabs on Persa enough to give the Hawkeyes an opportunity. Last week, the defense held Penn State to 13 points. Northwestern appears to have a much better offense, than Penn State, in their ability to score. Army held Northwestern to 14 points, the lowest point total of the year, but Persa was on the sidelines. Like Army, Iowa needs to be disciplined against Northwestern, if they are going to win.

A Mike Meyers FG could be huge on Saturday, along with QB James Vandenberg, RB Marcus Coker, the receivers and enough defense for the Hawkeyes. Our pick: Iowa 31, Northwestern 27

Elsewhere around the B1G:

  • Purdue (3-2, 1-0 B1G Leaders) @ Penn State (5-1, 2-0 B1G Leaders) at 11 a.m. on BTN, Nittany Lions will be without top receiver senior Derek Moye, ouch!

  • Michigan (6-0, 2-0 B1G Legends) @ Michigan State (4-1, 1-0 B1G Legends) at 11 a.m. on ESPN, the Wolverines are lead by QB Denard Robinson ... while MSU is coming off a bye week.

  • Indiana (1-4, 0-2 B1G Leaders) @ Wisconsin (5-0, 1-0 B1G Leaders) at 11 a.m. on ESPN2, the Badgers are coming off a bye week against Kevin Wilson, who has lost 18 scholarship players, since arriving at IU this off season.

  • Ohio State (3-3, 0-2 B1G Leaders) @ Illinois (6-0, 2-0 B1G Leaders) at 2:30 p.m. on ABC, the Fighting Illini beat the Buckeyes back in 1989, the last time we saw the Buckeyes enter this game unranked.

  • Minnesota (1-5, 0-2 B1G Legends) and Nebraaka (5-1, 1-1 B1G Legends) both have bye weeks. The Cornhuskers will travel to Minnesota next Saturday!

The Cyclones travel to Columbia as a Homecoming opponent: Iowa State (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) @ Missouri (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) for a 1 p.m., no TV game. Hopefully, the Cyclones can overcome the odds and pick up another road win. They beat Nebraska in '09 in Lincoln and Texas in '10 in Austin.

No comments: