Opponent Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes
WNUR’s Nick Scoliard takes an in-depth look at the Iowa Hawkeyes to examine where the ‘Cats could struggle or succeed on Saturday.
After an abysmal stretch of three conference losses, Northwestern looks to make a return to stay above .500 visiting the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa holds the same 4-3 record, although they were able to beat Minnesota, unlike the ‘Cats. How the game will play out will depend on the players, so let’s look to see who the Hawkeyes have in store:
Quarterback- Jake Rudock
Rudock seems to be the answer for Hawkeyes fans who were tired of James Vanderberg. Rudock has impressed in his first year, bringing the Hawkeyes offense to the limelight. His stat line, however, isn’t great. Rudock holds very similar numbers to Trevor Siemian, putting up a line of 124-208, for 1447 yards, 11 TDs and 7 INTs. Siemian has a completion percentage just one point lower, and a higher yards/attempt of almost a yard. One would think that this means Rudock is going to be easy prey for the now very effective ‘Cats pass defense. However, he seems to be able to put these numbers against stout defense like Michigan State and Ohio State. Rudock has also impressed in short runs – he’s used mainly near the goal line, and has five TDs, the most of the team. He’s a competent quarterback that is only getting better, and Northwestern should not cut him any slack.
Running Back – Mark Weisman
Here we go again. Another big, powerful running back that can exploit the ‘Cats suddenly struggling rush defense. Weisman has had four 100-yard games, including 147 against a Minnesota team that held Northwestern to 94 yards on the ground. However, over the last two games, Weisman has only gotten 17 carries for 61 yards while Iowa was trailing Michigan State and Ohio State respectively. Weisman is a work-horse, all 6’1″, 236 pounds of him, and Northwestern needs to contain him on Saturday.
Wide Receivers – Damond Powell, Kevonte Martin-Manley, Jake Duzey (TE), C.J. Fiedorowicz (TE), Tevaun Smith, Damon Bullock (RB)
So that’s a lot of receivers. The above receivers all have 100 yards or more of offense, which is incredible when you notice there are six of them. Rudock does a great job mixing up his receivers. Powell seems to be the deep threat- he only has 8 catches, but has racked up the most yardage with 241, an average of 30.1 per catch. Martin-Manley is the only other 200 yard receiver, and he leads the team in catches with 27. The TEs have 25 catches and 296 yards between them. Smith and Bullock round out the list getting 12 catches and 13 catches respectively, both for 113 yards, with Bullock being the better receiving back over Weisman. These players have 994 yards between them, and expect Rudock to spread it around. Northwestern will have to rely on the team passing defense, as VanHoose will not be able to stop only the best receiving option this time. Look for a lot of quarters coverage to keep up with all of these receivers.
Iowa has been known for their defense, and so far, it is what has kept them in games. They have only allowed 135 points, or 19.3 per game. Their rushing defense is their gem, allowing only 804 yards, 261 of those yards going to Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller, two of the best rushers in the nation, which means that they gave up 543 to 6 other teams. The only two rushing touchdowns they’ve allowed are to Hyde. Their passing defense hasn’t been as deadly, allowing 1431 yards through the air and 12 TDs. They’ve managed to cause 15 turnovers, and allow only 33 percent 3rd down conversion. This is a team that relies on defense, especially rushing, so Siemian will need to step up big and bounce back in order to defeat this team.
X-factor – Who wants it more?
As much as it’s a played out cliché to say the winner will be who wants it more, it’s somewhat true. The winner of this game doesn’t gain, but the loser will be devastated. The loser will be sent to the basement of the Legends division, and might even have trouble making a bowl. Both teams are very desperate and need to right their ships. It’s said by every broadcaster everywhere, but the ramifications of losing this game are tremendous.