Football Preview: Northwestern vs Iowa

By Patrick Winograd

Coming off a week where quarterback Brendan Sullivan made his first career start, Northwestern football (1-6) will now turn its attention to scoring against a skilled Iowa defense. 

Although Iowa (3-4) won last year’s matchup between the Hawkeyes and the ‘Cats, Northwestern has won four of the last six games against Iowa. Despite their 3-4 record, Iowa is still a formidable opponent. Three of Iowa’s losses have come against currently-ranked opponents (No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Michigan, and No. 17 Illinois). 

If the ‘Cats are going to pull off the upset in this matchup, Brendan Sullivan and the offense will need to find a way to put some points on the board. Iowa is currently the eighth-best scoring defense in all of college football, giving up just 16.1 points per game this season.

However, Iowa does have a significant weakness. While they are eighth in the country in scoring defense, the Hawkeyes are 128th (out of 131 FBS teams) in scoring offense, averaging 14 points per game. To make matters worse for the Hawkeyes, three of their ten touchdowns as a team this year came from the defense.

Because of Iowa’s offensive struggles, opponents who have minimized their own offensive mistakes have been much more successful than opponents who turned the ball over. In both wins and losses, Iowa’s best offense has been its defense. In a 54-10 loss to Ohio State last weekend, Iowa was able to put together a ten-play, 44-yard scoring drive for a field goal, but the Hawkeyes’ only other score of the game was a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Against South Dakota State, Iowa managed to score seven points, but without a touchdown. The Hawkeyes’ offensive output came from a four-play, five-yard field goal drive. The defense provided two safeties to get to seven points.

With both teams having their fair share of struggles offensively, Saturday may turn into a serious field position battle. Iowa’s biggest strength is capitalizing on turnovers, and Northwestern has committed quite a few of those over the course of the season. If there were ever a time for the ‘Cats to play a clean game, this would be the matchup. Iowa has not shown the ability to beat teams who do not beat themselves.

Although Northwestern has not had a game with fewer than two turnovers since Week 0 in Dublin, if the ‘Cats can play mistake-free football on Saturday, they can snap the losing streak and snatch some momentum as they move towards the end of the season.

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