The Iowa Hawkeyes will look to get their season back on track this week against Northwestern
After suffering from a North Dakota State hangover against Rutgers a week ago, the Iowa Hawkeyes hope to avoid a similar effect against Northwestern this week. They’re on a slippery slope that needs to be broken soon before they reach the heart of their schedule.
The 3-1 Hawkeyes will welcome the 1-3 Northwestern Wildcats to Iowa City during homecoming weekend. They’re set to kickoff at 11AM CT on ESPNU, with Iowa being a big 14-point favorite heading into the game. That being said, nothing is a guarantee after watching the Hawkeyes struggle against North Dakota State and Rutgers the past two weeks.
Of course, the big news of the week is that Iowa lost their top receiver, Matt VandeBerg, to a broken foot. He is out indefinitely and might miss the rest of his senior season.
As a result, fans should be in store for a good old-fashioned football game. Both teams want to run the ball in hopes of opening up play action. Akrum Wadley should be coming into this game with a lot of confidence after scoring four touchdowns against Northwestern last year. Plus, LeShun Daniels Jr should be in line for an increase in carries this week.
Justin Jackson, Northwestern’s star running back, leads the Big Ten in carries by a wide margin and also ranks 10th in the nation in that category, as well. If the Hawkeyes allow the Wildcats to hang around, they’ll be seeing a lot of Jackson late in the game.
Defensively, both teams rank in the top-25 in the nation in points allowed per game. The Hawkeyes stifling defense is giving up just 13.5 points per game, 12th in the nation, and teams have only scored 17.0 points per contest against Northwestern’s defense, 23rd in the nation. Outstanding linebackers are the leaders of both defenses.
Josey Jewell of Iowa and Anthony Walker of Northwestern are two of the best linebackers in the nation. They’re both extremely versatile and do a great job of stopping the run. Iowa and Northwestern will for big plays from their star linebackers multiple times this week, as stopping the run will be a necessity for both teams.
Also, Jewell is looking for his third consecutive game with double-digit tackles. It would only be the second time in his career that he accomplished that feat. He has a good chance of doing so this week, as Northwestern is a run-heavy offense.
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The biggest thing to watch, though, is who steps up in the passing game for the Hawkeyes. C.J. Beathard can’t do everything by himself, and the Hawkeyes will eventually need to pass. With VandeBerg easily leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns, someone will need to step up and become a reliable option for Beathard.
Iowa’s receivers have had trouble creating separation this season. That can’t be the case this week or else Northwestern will be able to hone in on the run. There are many questions surrounding Iowa’s offense this week, therefore it’ll be interesting to see how Kirk Ferentz attacks a defense they’ve handled easily in each of the past two seasons.
Iowa has outscored Northwestern 88-17 over the past two years. They have also beaten Northwestern three straight times and haven’t lost to them at Kinnick Stadium since 2009.
In a game where both teams desperately need a win, this will be a telling game for the Hawkeyes moving forward. Iowa can’t expect to win by simply showing up, they need to play better than they have the past two weeks or else they’ll be heading to Minnesota next week 3-2.