Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
Back in August when I wrote my Iowa preview I compared Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes to the Avengers' Hawkeye. While I still stand by that comparison, let me further explain. This team is more like the Hawkeye from Avengers: Age of Ultron than the Hawkeye from the first movie, who was brainwashed and mostly useless during the film. However, in the most recent movie, Hawkeye, AKA Clint Barton, becomes a more integral part of the Avengers Squad. Despite not possessing the superhuman skills of the Hulk or Thor, or the weaponry of Iron Man, Hawkeye makes easy work of Ultron's Minions. We also find out that Barton has something on the line, a family.
So again, how does this tie-in into the Iowa Hawkeyes? While the Hawkeyes are far from the most talented team in the conference, they find ways to win. And like Barton, these Hawkeyes have plenty to fight for. Including remaining undefeated, they have their sights set on playing in the Big Ten Championship, with a potential College Football Playoff birth on the line. Sure, highly unlikely, but who would have guessed they would be 8 and 0 at this point in the season? Not me, I predicated their best-case scenario would be 6 and 2 at his point. However, let's take a closer look at the "Numbers that Matter" against Iowa.
1-2 - In three match ups against the Hawkeyes, the Kevin Wilson-led Hoosiers have won once and lost twice, their only win coming at home in 2012.
7 - The Hoosiers haven't played a game in two weeks, which has given them seven extra days to prepare for the Hawkeyes. How much will this extra practice and prep time impact the outcome of this game?
9 - The Hawkeyes are currently ranked ninth in the nation, the third time the Hoosiers will have faced a top ten team so far this season (1. OSU and 7. MSU)
467.6 - The Hoosiers have moved the ball with relative ease throughout the season, albeit for the Penn State game. There's little surprise when I say that the performance of the high-powered Indiana offense will be key in determining how close this game ends up being on Saturday afternoon.
287.6 - The Hawkeyes defense certainly won't make things easy for Sudfeld and Company, giving up just 287.6 yards per game, which is sixth best in the nation.
33.1 - In addition to moving the ball, the Hoosiers have put plenty of points on the board throughout the season, but will 33.1 be enough to defeat the Hawkeyes?
15.3 - Can the Hoosiers even reach their season average against an Iowa defense that is only allowing 15.3 points per game, also sixth best in the country?
19 - Forcing turnovers is just another strength of this year's Hawkeyes squad, intercepting 12 passes (7 by Desmond King) and recovering 7 fumbles. The Hoosiers are going to have to take great care of the pigskin on Saturday.
37% - For all the good things you can say about Indiana's offense, their ability to convert on third down has been absolutely abysmal. Now converting just 37% of their third down attempts, which is 89 best in the country, Coach Wilson and his offensive staff will need to remedy this issue if the team is going to have long, sustained drives, which will also help the reeling Hoosiers defense.
508.6 - Speaking of the Indiana defense, Coach Knorr and his defense staff will need to find away to start slowing down their opponents if they are going to have any chance of reaching a bowl game. Giving up 508.6 yards per game or more the rest of the way will most certainly not get it done.
37.3 - Further highlighting Indiana's defensive struggles is the fact that they are giving up 37.3 points per game, which is 111 in the nation. Hard to win games when you are giving up that many points, even with a high-powered offense.
32.6 - The Hawkeyes are rarely known for their offensive potentcy, but they are putting up 32.6 points per game this season, just half of a point less than the Hoosiers. CJ Beathard and the Iowa offense looks like it should have no trouble keeping up with Indiana if it does turn into shootout.
33:12 - The Iowa offense is on the field for over 33 minutes per game, 12th most in the nation. Keeping the Indiana defense on the field and their offense off the field will likely be one of the keys to the game for the Hawkeyes on Saturday.
There are plenty of other numbers I could have included on the list, but this Saturday largely comes down to what all of Indiana's games have at this point, reducing penalties, forcing turnovers, and executing on third down, both offensively and defensively. The offense will need to be as a sharp as its ever been, as the margin for error is razor thin once again. This is a game that should worry Hawkeyes fans, because if the Hoosiers can play close to their potential for nearly 60 minutes, they could very easily pull off the upset.