Iowa at Northwestern
This Saturday the Iowa Hawkeyes will head to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats in Big Ten showdown between two hated rivals. Iowa snapped a 3-game losing streak to the Wildcats with a 41-31 win at home. The Hawkeyes haven’t won at Northwestern since 2007. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 EST at Ryan Field Stadium and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
For those of you looking to place a wager on this matchup, oddsmakers currently have Northwestern favored by 6-points over Iowa with the total set at 49 points.
The Hawkeyes come in off an embarrassing 14-38 loss at home to Penn State. The game was even worse than the final score indicates. Iowa didn’t score until the 4th quarter when they were already down by 0-38. The Hawkeyes are now 4-3 on the season. Even though the season is more than halfway over, Iowa will be playing just their second true road game of the year.
Iowa’s offense has been a major disappointment this season. They come in averaging just 20.9 ppg, which is the 103rd worst mark in the country. The passing game has been downright awful, as the Hawkeyes are only putting up 189.0 ypg through the air. Senior quarterback James Vandenberg has simply not lived up the huge expectation he set during his impressive junior season. He has just three touchdown passes to five interceptions after throwing 25 touchdowns to just seven interceptions a year ago.
While the Hawkeyes come in 89th in rushing, averaging just 135.4 ypg, they had found some new life on the ground behind sophomore Mark Weisman. However, Weisman suffered an ankle injury in the overtime win at Michigan State and was clearly limited against the Nittany Lions. He managed just 9 yards on 5 attempts. Weisman had rushed for 623 yards and eight touchdowns over the four previous games with at least 110 yards in each contest.
Considering he was able to get on the field against Penn State, I would expect him to play on Saturday against Northwestern. The big question is just how effective he will be. If he is anywhere close to 100% this Iowa team is going to give the Wildcats all they can handle. If he isn’t any better than he was a week ago, Iowa will struggle to keep this game competitive.
The Wildcats defensively aren’t anything special. They have given up all kinds of yards in their four Big Ten games. While they come in ranked 28th against the run, allowing just 121.3 ypg, they have given up nearly 170 ypg on the ground in conference action. The pass defense has been non-existent all season, ranking 107th in the country at 279.8 ypg.
The Wildcats suffered a heartbreaking loss at Nebraska this past weekend. Northwestern ended up losing the game 28-29 despite leading 28-16 with just 8:31 left to play in the 4th quarter. Junior placekicker Jeff Budzien had a chance to give the Wildcats a win, but his 53-yard field goal attempt missed right and the game was all but over. Northwestern is still an impressive 6-2 on the season, but are just 2-2 inside the Big Ten.
Northwestern features a strong running game that is currently ranked 18th in the country at 222.4 ypg. They finished up with 180 yards and two scores on the ground against Nebraska, led by Venric Mark’s 118 yards and one touchdown. Mark leads the team with 910 yards and nine touchdowns. Quarterback Kain Colter has also been a dominant force on the ground, rushing for 456 yards and eight touchdowns, but he was held to just 35 yards on 14 attempts in the loss to the Cornhuskers.
Sophomore quaterback Trevor Siemian has been the primary passing threat when Northwestern has the ball, as Colter has pretty much been used primarily as a rusher. Siemian didn’t have his best game against Nebraska, completing just 15 of 35 attempts for 116 yards, but did have touchdown tosses.
Iowa’s defense had been playing pretty well this season, but they didn’t look good at all last week against Penn State. They allowed the Nittany Lions to rack up 504 yards of total offense with over 200 yards on the ground and through the air. It was the most yards Iowa has allowed all season. They will be much better on that side if Weisman is healthy and they can keep their defense off the field.
The underdog is an impressive 6-1 ATS over the last 7 meetings, but typically that has been Northwestern, as they are 5-2 ATS over the last 7 games against Iowa. Northwestern is also 5-0 ATS in their last 5 home games and 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games overall. Iowa is 36-15-1 ATS in their last 52 games following a S.U. loss, but are just 2-9 ATS over their last 11 road games.