Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
What: Iowa Hawkeyes (8-0, 4-0) at Indiana Hoosiers 4-4 (0-4)
When: Saturday, November 7 at 3:30
Where: Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana
How to Watch: The game will be broadcast on ESPN. You can also listen to the game on the IU Radio Network.
What’s at Stake: The Iowa Hawkeyes are the leaders in the B1G West and the heavy favorites to earn a place in the B1G Championship Game in Indianapolis. If they can remain undefeated and knock off the B1G East champ, the Hawkeyes may shock everyone and end up in the College Football Playoff (they are ranked 9th in the initial CFP rankings). The Indiana Hoosiers are looking to halt a four-game losing streak. A victory would put them in great position to reach a bowl game while a defeat would leave them needing two wins from their final three games.
A Few Things to Look For
1. A Rock Solid Team
The Iowa Hawkeyes aren’t incredible at any one thing. They’ve achieved an 8-0 start thanks to a well-balanced attack and a steady defense. The Hawkeyes are now sixth in the country in points allowed (15.3 points per game), fifth in the country in turnover margin (+10) and tenth in the country in average starting field position (opponents are starting drives at their own 26). The Hawkeyes don’t have any glaring weaknesses and they have done all the “little things” (which aren’t little at all) very well all season. The Hawkeyes are only penalized 4.58 times per game for an average of 40.92 yards per game and they’ve only surrendered one rushing touchdown all season. If IU is to win this game, they’ll have to execute at a very high level because the Hawkeyes won’t be handing them anything.
"I don't know if it's a great group, but they're better together than they are independently," Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. "You don't win all these games the way they're winning (by accident). They're scoring points. They've done a nice job. I've always had a lot of respect for their program and the job that they've done there.”
2. Beware of Desmond King
If you throw at the King, you better not miss. Junior cornerback Desmond King is tied for the national lead in INTs with seven. He’s had an absolutely splendid season and Nate Sudfeld is going to need be very careful when targeting any receiver covered by King. I’d expect King to largely play on Ricky Jones but he will probably see time on Simmie Cobbs as well. King had two interceptions against both Pittsburgh and Wisconsin (Iowa’s two closest games) and he had a critical 88-yard “pick six” last week against Maryland. Sudfeld will need to know where King is on every play because he can change the game with one play.
3. Rested Up For the Stretch Run
The Indiana Hoosiers badly needed a bye week and they got it. The extra week of rest and preparation should allow Jordan Howard to play as close to 100% as we’ve seen him since the beginning of the Ohio State game. It should also allow Nate Sudfeld to feel completely confident about his ankle. Having a healthy Howard makes a huge difference for the Indiana offense. He can help them on third and short, he can help them run clock and keep possession and he is capable of grinding down a defense with his physical running style. The Iowa Hawkeyes have some injury concerns with an offensive lineman and their best running back.
“Injury-wise right now, both Jordan Canzeri and Ike Boettger are making progress. They may go and travel. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said at his weekly press conference. “They are making progress. I don’t see either of them playing, but at least they’re getting closer. We’re starting to see them gaining ground here.”
The Hawkeyes aren’t bereft of options at tailback either way but they’d love to have Canzeri back. If he can’t go, Iowa will turn to LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley. Daniels is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and Wadley is averaging 5.8 ypc with six touchdowns. Quarterback C.J. Beathard is capable of churning out some yards on the ground as well.
4. Needed: A Consistent 60 Minutes
IU has not beaten a Top 10 opponent since 1987! That’s correct, the Hoosiers last victory over a top ten team was October 10, 1987 when IU hammered the ninth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, 31-10. The Hoosiers went on to finish 8-4 (6-2).
If the Hoosiers are to break a drought nearly as old as I am, they will need to put together a consistent effort for 60 minutes. The Hoosiers have won four games and lost four games, the only constant for nearly every game this season has been that they’ve had at least one quarter in each game that has been extremely poor. Their most recent game against a top ten opponent (two weeks ago, at Michigan State) was very competitive until the final six minutes when IU completely fell apart. They cannot afford to have any lapses, mentally or physically, against the Hawkeyes.
5. A True Test
While Iowa’s defense is ranked in the top 10 nationally, they haven’t exactly played a lot of high-flying offenses. Thus far, they’ve played Illinois State, Iowa State, Pitt, North Texas, Wisconsin (without Corey Clement), Illinois, Northwestern and Maryland. Nate Sudfeld is the best quarterback the Hawkeyes will have faced (by far) and the Hoosiers have the best offense Iowa will go up against all regular season. Credit to the Hawkeyes for what they have accomplished but the Hoosiers have had a week off to do two things: rest up and plan for this game.
“They’re very, very productive offensively,” Kirk Ferentz told reporters. “They’re very balanced. Do a nice job running and throwing. High tempo with really good players. I think one of the better offensive lines in the Big Ten. We expect them to be well-rested, well-prepared.”
Stay tuned to Hoosier Huddle for more excellent coverage of this week’s matchup. We’ll have multiple preview pieces and a the best post-game coverage you’ll find anywhere.