The need to know
What: Iowa at Indiana
Where: Ryan Field, Evanston
When: 11:00 AM
Iowa injury report
Iowa has been a little dinged up lately, but I think this week they are a little healthier than last. Adam Robinson will play after missing last week with a concussion. Jeff Tarpinian should be back on full-time duty and could start at OLB. Right guard is kind of a question mark, but Adam Gettis and Nolan MacMillan are close to playing, though Koeppel did a nice job there last week. I think the only two players definitely out are Tyler Nielsen and Jewel Hampton
UPDATE: Sandeman is apparently out today...no word yet on the reason. Chaney will be the punt returner. I imagine Keenan Davis will have an expanded role as the third receiver.
Keys to the game
Red zone: The main reason Iowa was in such a tight game with Indiana last weekend was that the Hawkeye's red zone offense was terrible. Iowa needs to better today, and should with Robinson back. We don't need to see any fade routes from Stanzi. I'd like for Iowa to pound the ball with Robinson and then maybe try a play-action pass to a TE. Let's keep it smart and simple.
Red zone defense is also going to be important. Northwestern is going to move the ball on Iowa's defense. Their quick passing game is set up perfectly to generate yards between the 20s on Iowa's bend-but-don't-break style. Keeping Northwestern to field goal attempts will be a big win for the defense. Especially because the Wildcat kicker is just 12/18 on the year and has really struggled on longer FG attempts.
Killer instinct: I have read other fans complaints about Iowa's lack of a killer instinct when it comes to putting teams away. I agree, Ferentz & Co. typically get pretty conservative with a lead, or even against lesser opponents. Iowa cannot afford to do just go through the motions this week. The last couple of years Iowa built a big lead early, but through injuries and turnovers gave the games back to Northwestern. Iowa needs to really get after the Wildcats and keep the pressure on...play with tenacity. Treat this game the same way Michigan State was treated, and it shouldn't be a problem.
Also worth mentioning, is that Northwestern treats the Iowa game like their Super Bowl. There have been plenty of stories this week about Pat Fitzgerald hating Iowa. It's a product of the 90s when then Head Coach Gary Barnett decided to make Iowa the Wildcat's biggest rivals. It was first out of jealously (they say respect), but has turned into hatred. It flows down from the coach to the players (and the fans) and it's safe to say that Northwestern will be fired up for this game.
Keep the Wildcats off balance: On offense, Iowa needs to do something to neutralize Northwestern's blitzes. They like to blitz a lot. Using some screen passes or draws may be an effective tactic today, even though it's not something Iowa does a lot. Mixing up the play calling on first and second down will also help. Iowa can't afford to get in obvious passing situations on 3rd downs, because that is where Northwestern has shined this year. They are 19th in the country in 3rd down defense.
On defense, Iowa can keep Northwestern off balance by getting to Persa. He is one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the country and Iowa's defensive line should be able to get to him. The key with the pass rush though, is for the line to stay in their lanes. Persa is quick to take off if his initial read is not there and he sees a hole to run through.
Shortly after the Indiana game, I felt better about the Northwestern game because I expect Iowa to have the same focus this week as it did against MSU after playing poorly against Wisconsin. Iowa will come out sharp and keep the pressure on. Adam Robinson will provide the spark that was missing in the red zone last week and score 2 TDs. Stanzi will add 2 more TDs.
The defense will let Persa hit those quick passes in the flat up and down the field but clamp down in the red zone only allowing 1 TD. Northwestern will settle for a few field goals and miss at least 1.
Final score: Iowa 28 - Northwestern 13