Bring Down the House: Iowa vs. Northwestern Preview

House previews Iowa's big game against Northwestern on Saturday.

Jonathan House, Sports Editor

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Another week, another big game. Last week, the Hawkeyes improved to 6-0, and became bowl eligible for the 14th time under Kirk Ferentz, after defeating Illinois. This week, they have to travel to Evanston to face #20 Northwestern, a team that Iowa usually seems to struggle against.

Last week, I said that Iowa needed to run the ball, force turnovers, and shutdown Illinois’ passing game to get the win. Iowa did just that, as Jordan Canzeri alone had 256 yards, and the team had 278. Canzeri also set a school record with 43 carries. Iowa also forced turnovers, two total, to finish +2 in the turnover margin. Iowa didn’t do a great job defending the pass, giving up over 300 yards through the air, but it was enough. The Hawks were able to escape a fairly tight game with a 29-20 win, and I had Iowa winning by ten. Overall, I think I feel pretty good about my keys to the game and predictions for last week.

Enough about last week, this is arguably the biggest game of what’s left in the regular season. The bowl game, and if Iowa makes the Big Ten championship game, would likely be the only bigger games. Northwestern is ranked, and Iowa is already 1-0 against ranked teams, and doesn’t play another team that is currently ranked for the rest of the season. The Wildcats are coming off of a brutal loss in the Big House (38-0) at the hands of former Iowa QB, Jake Rudock, and Jim Harbaugh. I think it will be interesting to see how Northwestern responds.

Here are my keys to the game:

  1. Iowa needs to continue to run the ball. Iowa has run the ball down its opponents throats in recent weeks. Iowa had 278 yards last week, and 144 yards the previous week against a very good Wisconsin defense. Northwestern is ranked 35th in run defense, keeping its opponents under four yards a carry. If Canzeri and company continue to pound the rock, Iowa should be 7-0 heading into the bye week.
  2. Protect C.J. Beathard. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard took a bit of a beating last week, and supposedly has a groin injury. However, he is expected to play. Northwestern has a great defense, allowing only 269.5 yards per game, ninth in the country. With offensive linemen, Ike Boettger, and Boone Myers out of the lineup, it could make for a long day for Iowa. If Beathard takes too many more hits, we could see redshirt freshman Tyler Wiegers at QB.
  3. Stay healthy. I already touched base on this a little, but with DE Drew Ott out for the year, RB LeShun Daniels, and WR Tevaun Smith also banged up, the Hawkeyes need to escape this game without injuries, heading into the bye week. Keep in mind that in 2009, the Hawks had starting QB, Ricky Stanzi injured against Northwestern. Iowa would eventually lose the game, after its offense struggled, and fell to 9-1.

Iowa wins a close one.

Prediction: Iowa 20, Northwestern 17

Other Big games:

Michigan over Michigan State

Alabama over Texas A&M

Oklahoma over Kansas State

LSU over Florida

Utah over Arizona State

Upset of the week:

Penn State over Ohio State