Iowa’s quest to become bowl eligible for the fifth season in a row continues Saturday at Northwestern, an 11 a.m. game that will be on ESPN2. The Wildcats already have met the six-win bowl requirement.
Givens on Saturday include more Hawkeye fans at Ryan Field than Northwestern fans, James Vandenberg starting for Iowa at quarterback, and beyond that everything else is mostly a guess.
Who has the edge?
IOWA’S PASSING GAME
Nonexistent you say? As bad as it sometimes looks, some Big Ten teams actually have had worse passing statistics since the start of the conference season – like Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern and Michigan. Iowa, however, hasn’t been great, and its 171.7 yard average in three league games shows it – that and just two touchdown passes. However, James Vandenberg will be throwing Saturday against a defense that has allowed conference opponents an average of 264.8 passing yards a game, against a defense that has allowed six touchdown passes in the last four games, and against a team that has injury problems in the secondary. The Hawkeyes will have a new left tackle, and he must be sharp against a defense that has 10 sacks in its four conference games. Therefore, look for quick, short passes. Look for the re-emergence of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. Look for short crossing routes. ADVANTAGE: IOWA.
IOWA’S RUNNING GAME
If Mark Weisman’s right ankle has fully recovered from a sprain suffered while scoring the tying touchdown in a double overtime win at Michigan State two Saturdays ago, then the Hawkeyes should be able to run the ball. Conference opponents average 169.8 rushing yards against the Wildcats, so with a healthy Weisman, Iowa should be all right. Damon Bullock was cleared to practice, which means he could play Saturday. Greg Garmon is available, too. ADVANTAGE: EVEN
NORTHWESTERN’S PASSING GAME
The Wildcats average just 159.5 passing yards against the Big Ten, ahead of only Michigan. They’ll use two quarterbacks, but when Trevor Siemian plays, it’s usually a pass. When Kain Colter lines up behind center, it’s more unpredictable. Translated: Northwestern doesn’t win by passing. ADVANTAGE: IOWA
NORTHWESTERN’S RUNNING GAME
The Wildcats’ spread offense opens large holes for rushers such as Venric Mark and even Colter. Mark, who will play Saturday after suffering an undisclosed injury last week against Nebraska, averages 113.8 rushing yards against the Big Ten. Colter averages 57.0 yards for a game and 5.2 yards for a carry. The Hawkeyes gave up 215 rushing yards last Saturday to Penn State. ADVANTAGE: NORTHWESTERN
It’s Ryan Field, where Iowa has a 2-5 recent record. . . .It’s also Ryan Field, where most of the fans will be Hawkeyes. . . .Northwestern has blown leads in both its Big Ten losses – 28-16 with 8:31 left against Nebraska, and 28-17 with 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter against Penn State. . . .Venric Mark leads the conference in all-purpose yards, he returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown against Penn State, and he leads the nation in punt returns with a 25.1-yard average. ADVANTAGE: NORTHWESTERN
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football