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Game 9 Preview: Indiana Hoosiers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

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Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Who, Where, When: Indiana returns to Memorial Stadium after the bye week to host the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes Saturday. Kickoff is 3:30pm Eastern time on ESPN, with Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham in the booth and Dr. Jerry Punch on the sidelines. The last time Iowa traveled to Bloomington for a game, the Hoosiers came away 24-21 victors in 2012.

Numbers of Note, Nate Sudfeld Records Edition: 1, the number of touchdown passes Nate needs to throw to become IU's all-time career leader (he is currently tied at the top with Kellen Lewis). 225, the number of passing yards Nate needs to move into 3rd place all-time in career passing yards. .001, the completion percentage Nate currently sits ahead of Ben Chappell as IU's career leader. 4,921, the amount of total offense Nate would need to accumulate over the remainder of the season to tie Antwaan Randle-El at the top of IU's record book (spoiler: it's not happening).

Iowa Notes and Ramblings, courtesy of OTE's own Creighton M: I think this game is more interesting than it appears to be on paper. Preseason predictions for the Hawkeyes put the ceiling right at about 8 wins with 6 or 7 wins being more likely, so the fact that Iowa is currently sitting at 8-0 is pretty remarkable no matter how you try to rationalize it. Without diving in too deep, the short version of why this season has been so successful is a combination of getting the right players in the system, changing the offensive fundamentals that haven't produced results for 3 years, and having an upswing of players with lots of experience playing in important positions. The end result is an offense capable of big plays (at IOWA!?), an elite defense and an undefeated record. The schedule to date hasn't actually been any easier than some of the big boys like Ohio State and Alabama, but obviously the narrative going forward with this team has been how their schedule is very light on the back end.

I'm not going to argue that Iowa's remaining schedule should be impressing anyone, but none of the games look to be a sure thing. In reverse order, Iowa gets a Nebraska team with lots to prove, the Purdue team that beat Nebraska, a Minnesota team trying to salvage their season for Jerry Kill, and of course Indiana.

I had this week circled as a possible trap game since Iowa beat Wisconsin in the season opener. The first playoff rankings came out this week, and the Hawkeyes get a chance to win back Floyd next week. Sandwiched in the middle are the Hoosiers who, even at 4-4, have shown that they can give the top teams in the conference a real fight. Indiana's passing attack matches up sort of well against the Hawks. Iowa has an interception machine in Desmond King, with Jordan Lomax and Miles Taylor providing the best safety play Iowa has seen in a couple of years behind him. The corner opposite King is Greg Mabin. Mabin has played well at times this year, but he's proven to be vulnerable in single coverage. I expect the Hoosiers to throw to his side of the field all day long. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker also tends to rely on his linebackers pretty heavily in passing situations, which could prove to be a huge mistake against a team like Indiana. Ultimately, I think the most important unit for Iowa will be the defensive line.  If Iowa can maintain a consistent pass rush, things will probably work out pretty well for them.  Two names I promise you will hear a lot on Saturday are Nate Meier and Jaleel Johnson.

Offensively the Hawkeyes are getting healthier. The gameplan has had to change a little bit in the last few weeks because of a hip injury that has slowed down CJ Beathard and Iowa is still shuffling players around on the offensive line, but as far as injuries go Iowa is in much better shape than they were after the Northwestern game. Indiana's defense has been a huge liability all year long, and I don't expect that fact to change this week. Ferentz will probably keep it simple and play the ball control game to avoid getting in an offensive shootout. Just like last week against Maryland, I don't expect them to get too deep into the playbook unless they have to.

With the new playoff system, nobody in Iowa City is getting as worried about the polls as we would have under the BCS. It's a big if, but if Iowa goes 12-0 and wins the B1G Championship game, I can't imagine a scenario where we get left out of the playoff. If we don't go, it means we stumbled and probably didn't deserve a spot in the playoff anyway, but we'll still likely go to a pretty good bowl game.  Rather than setting our expectations sky high, most of us fans have taken a page out of Ferentz's book and made "one week at a time" our mantra this year. This week we get Indiana.  The Hoosiers might be the biggest test we have left.  It will be a heck of a game, but I think Iowa wins through good defense and ball control rather than in an offensive shootout.

Iowa Fun Facts and Notable Alumni: Can be found in last year's preview. Also, the Iowa game last year appears to have been when this section started, so that's kind of neat.

Prediction: I fully expect that Iowa should win this game. After all; they're the ranked team, they're the undefeated team, and Indiana hasn't had the best track record of finishing games against the lower end of the conference this year, much less against teams near the top. All of that said, there's one thing that has pretty much eluded the football Hoosiers forever: an upset at home of a top tier team. So I say, if not now, when? Indiana springs the 38-20 upset.

Next Week: Senior Day for the Hoosiers as the Fighting Harbaughs come to town.