#13 Iowa-Northwestern: Brutally Honest Game Preview

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GO-CATS!

“Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

These words were delivered to the American people on July 15th, 1979 but are more valid today than ever in history. And they apply to the college football rivalry between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Northwestern Wildcats too!

The quote is from Jimmy Carter’s “Malaise speech” or “Crisis of Confidence speech.”? Iowa may be in the Big Ten’s upper class, but they have a crisis of confidence when it comes to playing Northwestern. NU has taken four of the last five and three straight at Kinnick, where pretty much no visitor ever wins.

After blowing big second half leads in three of their last four, Northwestern has a crisis of confidence too. They’re bowl eligible, but they need to win at least one of their three to avoid the malaise of the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

On Saturday, someone will better define themselves “by what won does,” and that’s winning.

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By Paul M. Banks

Iowa Synopsis: QB Ricky Stanzi is third in the nation, and first in the Big Ten in passing efficiency. He’s essentially having a Silver Football level season. Senior DE Adrian Clayborn, senior TE Allen Reisner and junior DB Tyler Sash join Stanzi on the reduced lists for national honors at their respective positions.

Iowa has won 22 of its last 26 games and 24 of 29, dating back to the middle of the 2008 season. Iowa had a 22-5 stretch from the 2001 Alamo Bowl through the 2003 season. Iowa posted a 22-2-2 mark between 1956-58. Iowa is 13-3 in its last 16 Big Ten games. Iowa’s school record of 20 straight wins occurred between 1920-23. So you see why this NU losing streak is kind of a big deal.

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Northwestern Synopsis:

During the 2008 season, the Cats’ players and coaches had an oft-repeated maxim of “flushing it.” It simply meant that regardless of the result each week, you just had to “flush it” to prepare for the next week. This consistent sound-bite was basically a new spin on the tired and predictable “we’re 0-0 now” and “we just try to go 1-0 each week.”

And the Cats’ recent second half performances belong in the toilet. Reminding me of this amusing YouTube video. (If you’re stoned, you’ll find it really amusing)

No lead has been safe for the Cardiac Cats lately. After jumping out to a 21-0 lead, the Wildcats had their six-game road winning streak snapped in a 35-21 loss at Penn State. NU fell one shy of tying the school mark for consecutive road wins.

Home hasn’t been friendly to the Wildcats lately, they blew a 17-0 to Michigan State in their last appearance at Ryan Field and let a mangled Purdue team off the hook in the final minutes of the previous home contest.

The good news? November has been good one to Pat Fitzgerald and company. Since taking over as NU’s head coach in 2006, the Wildcats have posted a 9-5 record in November, 6-2 since ’08. Three of those six wins came against top-25 clubs. This year’s slate is much tougher though: NU’s four November foes own a combined record of 26-10. Two of those teams (Iowa and Wisconsin) are ranked in the top-15.

Guys you’ll see Saturday eventually playing on Sundays:

Iowa- I’ve seen scouts high on Stanzi. DE Adrian Clayborn should be a top 5-10 pick. DT Karl Klug could be a mid round pick, likewise for lineman Cristian Ballard, safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood.  Wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and yes even the punter Ryan Donahue look NFL quality as well. Iowa running backs always seem to end up at the next level so Adam Robinson should be no exception.

On the Wildcats, LB Quentin Davie and superback (tight end/fullback hybrid) Drake Dunsmore

Prediction to be taken with a grain of salt (actually make that a whole truckload of salt):

Iowa 37, NU 17 (Banks’ 2010 record 15-5)

The Hawkeyes have to reverse the mini-curse at some point right? Last year, the Cats ruined what seemed like a very special season in Iowa City. You know Stanzi and company are going to have a bone to pick with that. They’ll also be playing loose as their potentially very special season as already been ruined- twice.

However, I’m not just picking the Hawkeyes out of revenge factor. Northwestern’s defense has looked absolutely dreadful in the second halves of conference games. And the problem’s been compounded by the same issue they had when they were 5-0: inability to control clock with a lead and step on their opponents’ throats.

Yes, their running game has improved lately, but not enough to compensate for the regression of the defense. If the inability to deliver the knockout punch doomed them versus Purdue and Penn State, what could happen versus Iowa?

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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