The worst week of every football fan’s season is over, wave goodbye to the bye week and wave hello to the Northwestern Wildcats, aka. the Windy City Kitties. The bye week came at a good time for the Hawks, right smack dab in the middle of the season. Time for bumps and bruises to heal up, and valuable extra practice time for the young guys that are going to be asked to contribute more in the second half of the season.
The match-up on Saturday is basically an elimination game for the B1G West division. While the loser isn’t mathematically out of the race, truthfully they are with the Wisconsin Badgers currently undefeated. Have you seen Wisconsin’s schedule?? It’s weaker than Iowa’s 2015 schedule that took them to the Rose Bowl. Our beloved Hawkeyes have faced a very strong first 6 games of the season. So far Iowa’s opponents boast a record of 25-11, with only Illinois currently possessing a record of below .500. Looking forward the remaining teams on the schedule carry a record of 24-14. Iowa has their work cut out for them to get to 8-4 or even my prediction of 9-3. For now, let’s look at the Windy City Kitties as Iowa invades the mausoleum that is Ryan Field…
Iowa/Northwestern has been a dead-even tie in the Ferentz years. 8 wins. 8 losses. The last 4 years it’s either been a nail-biter or a complete blowout. While Iowa has taken four out of the last 6 match-ups, Pat Fitzgerald brings a team led by an experienced QB in junior Clayton Thorson and All-B1G candidate RB Justin Jackson. Last week Jackson cemented his name in the Northwestern record books by becoming the program’s all-time leader in rushing yards and all-purpose yards. Thorson is in his third year as starting QB for the Wildcats and he doesn’t fit the mold of QBs that Fitzgerald has used over the years to torment Iowa defenses. Thorson is a pocket-passer, however he’ll run the occasional read-option, but he’s not going to take one 50+ yards for a touchdown. Thorson has had troubles with interceptions this season, throwing 9 of them to go with only 8 touchdown passes. In other words, Iowa could find some takeaways in the secondary on Saturday.
Northwestern boasts a member of the “All-Name Team” on the defensive side of the football in 3-year starter at safety, Godwin Igwebuike. He’s only the third leading tackler on the team but with a last name like Igwebuike, I just wanted to write about him so I can picture you slowly sounding out how to pronounce his name. Gotcha! For real though, the Northwestern defense will be a stout opponent. They only allowed the vaunted Wisconsin rushing offense to 109 rushing yards and only 2.9 yards per carry in their 33-24 loss to the stinkin’ Badgers. The Wildcat defense have forced 10 fumbles and intercepted 4 passes on the year. Nate Stanley could have a big day as the Northwestern secondary is giving up an average of 267 yards per game through the air.
Given most teams effort to slow Akrum Wadley, I look for Iowa to have success through the air tomorrow in Evanston. Nate Stanley continues his march towards an All-B1G season with 270 yards through the air with 3 touchdowns. Wadley will continue his all-purpose effectiveness by surpassing 100 total yards on the day with a touchdown to go along with it. Vegas had Iowa as anywhere from a 1 to 2.5 point favorite this week, however today it’s flipped to Northwestern now being a 1 point favorite. Those tricky guys in the desert. I think Iowa shows up refreshed and ready to go and wins in Evanston by a score of 35-27, mainly because it’s about time Iowa wins one of these close games against the Wildcats. As always…..go Hawks and beat those nerds!