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Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Indiana Hoosiers: Preview, predictions and prognostications

When: Sat., November 7; 3:30 P.M. Eastern
Where: Bloomington, IN; Memorial Stadium (52,929)
TV: ESPN
All-Time Series: Iowa leads 43-28-4
Last Meeting: Iowa win 45-29
Line: Iowa -7

Here we go. In what might be one of the most underrated games of this weekend, the Hawkeyes and all the potential of what could be, travel to Bloomington to take on an Indiana team that can score on anyone when healthy and engaged in the game of football. The Hoosiers looked like a team to be reckoned with early on in the season, but the wheels have started to wobble and come unglued here recently. They still have a shot at becoming bowl-eligible, and a win here would do wonders for the psyche of the team.

Still, this is a dangerous game for a Hawkeye program that has too often chipped its beak when least expected later in the season. We’ll be able to tell what kind of game this will be early by how well Indiana is moving the ball against a very good Iowa defense, because you feel pretty good about the local high school team being able to move the ball on the Hoosier defense, so why not Iowa? The team that has the ball last might come out on top if Indiana is present and in the moment.

1 Burning Question: Can Iowa Dodge the Feared Letdown?

This is getting real. The first installment of the College Football Rankings just came out Tuesday and Iowa is in the conversation. The Hawkeyes aren’t getting the media-hugs like Ohio State and Michigan State in the conference nationally, but that’ll hardly matter if it takes care of business. But right about now is when we’ve seen other Hawkeye teams begin to cave in over the magnitude of it all, and this Indiana team is a very dangerous one that has upset, and put many more scares into programs sitting at the adult table. Iowa needs to go on a business trip and play the same game it has up until this point and grind out the win.

2 Key Stats:

— 12: That’s the number of explosive plays that have been over 40 yards this year for Iowa. That leads the Big Ten, and is way up from an average of 8.3 per season during the three previous years under much-maligned offensive-coordinator Greg Davis. There seemed to be issues on offense through the spring and early on in fall-camp, but boy have things turned around since. Going against an Indiana team that can also break a few big ones, that trend needs to continue on the road.

— 509: That’s the ugly amount of yards the Indiana defense is giving up per game. You can score all you want, but if you can’t stop a slight-breeze from getting push on the defensive front, it’ll be a dogfight each and every week. Kevin Wilson loves him some offense and you have to wonder when he’ll start to re-evaluate the athletes he’s putting on the defensive side of the ball. You know Iowa is licking its chops to try and make sweet offensive magic in Memorial Stadium.

3 Key Players:

C.J. Beathard, Iowa QB: He’s the key reason why this Iowa team has surpassed expectations. The numbers don’t jump off the page at you, but he’s a savvy kid that can make plays when things break down. There should be a lot of breaking down against an Indiana defense that’s sold as an optional package at the local dealership. However, Beathard has been struggling with some nagging injuries and it bears watching. If he’s not himself and it hinders the Iowa offense even just a little, the door could be open for the Hoosier offense to outscore the Hawkeyes and ruin the potential of what could become in Iowa City.

Jordan Howard, Indiana RB: Howard started the season like he was shot out of a cannon, but then he too got banged up. Since then, the offense and team haven’t been the same. He’s back and listed as probable for the game, but they’ll need him to be close to 100 percent to get the tough yards against a physical Iowa defensive front to take the load off of Nate Sudfeld in the passing game. A balanced Indiana offense is a much better Indiana offense.

Nate Sudfeld, Indiana QB: Yeah we’re going with all offense here because there should be plenty of it on Saturday. When Sudfeld is on, he’s great at going through his progressions and being on-point and on-time with his passing. When he’s not though, implosions like what happened in the fourth quarter against Rutgers can occur. For Indiana to have a chance to upset Iowa’s Chi, he needs to have a big day while cutting out the mistakes.

4 Bold Prognostications:

— Indiana will be leading at halftime. Motivated to stake a claim to something special in the season and nab a marquis win, the Hoosiers will play with emotion and purpose early in the game. The defense will make some uncharacteristically big plays and the offense will be crisp and efficient. Kevin Wilson’s team will hit the break with the lead.

— Beathard will have an off game. He’s due, and you wouldn’t expect it against a porous Hoosier defense, but the nagging injuries he’s been dealing with will get tweaked again. He won’t be as mobile and he’ll press and try to do too much through the air and make more mistakes than what we’ve seen so far this year.

Nate Sudfeld will pass for over 350 yards. With Jordan Howard still not quite himself, the coaching staff will be forced to put the game into Sudfeld’s hands. He’ll throw early and often and make some big plays through the air, move the chains, and rack up the yards. But …

— He’ll throw three interceptions. Sudfeld will be too much of a good thing. The success will result in a continued barrage through the air and Iowa will adjust by dropping guys in coverage. He will get over-confident and experience some blind-spots throwing the ball. The Hawkeyes will capitalize on his mistakes and snatch their share of footballs out of the air on defense.

5 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Iowa 31-20 (68-17 overall; 37-47 ATS)
Dave: Iowa 34-28 (69-16 overall; 44-39 ATS)
Greg: Indiana 33-31(62-23 overall; 47-36 ATS)
Matt: Indiana 45-41(68-17 overall; 50-33 ATS)
Phil: Iowa 32-24 (23-9 overall; 11-18 ATS) *joined in Week 5

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