Iowa Hawkeyes at Northwestern Wildcats Game Preview, Prediction

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The #22 Iowa Hawkeyes visit the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday in a match-up of the two most tenured head coaches in the Big Ten. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz has been around the league longer than anyone, but there are certainly calls for his sacking in Iowa.

The dean of college football coaches, Ferentz, has been criticized for his methods and style, with his detractors calling upon him to modernize his offense. Ferentz has not done himself any favors, as he used the word “predictable,” to describe his own team, in his weekly press conference. Certainly, Wisconsin had no issues predicting what Iowa was going to do last week, as the Badgers absolutely dominated them on both sides of the ball.

Saturday, Nov. 6

6 p.m. CT – Northwestern Wildcats vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (WGN Radio AM-720; BTN) Northwestern are +12 to Iowa, with ESPN projecting just a 19% chance winning. The total is consistently in the mid 40s.

Iowa and Northwestern are two of the five teams, in a seven team division, who are extremely ground-and-pound, run-first oriented. We have some interesting comments from Fitzgerald, and Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, which you can read here.

Iowa Hawkeyes Preview

Tyler Goodson should certainly get right here, as he’ll face a NU run defense that has been as bad as any of the Fitzgerald era. When the Hawkeyes were ranked #2 in the nation, just three weeks ago, it didn’t feel too authentic. Not sure anyone thought the Iowa Hawkeyes were the second best team in the nation, but hey, you had to put somebody there.

They’ve since come down to Earth, but could still easily finish with a 9-3 record and a New Year’s Day bowl berth. Iowa is dominant on defense, great on special teams, and blah and meh on offense.

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“They’re different in how they try to do it, but everyone on this side [the West division] wants to establish the run. It opens up explosive plays down the field, and no one’s been better at it the last 20 years than the Hawkeyes,” Fitzgerald said of Iowa’s offensive approach and their run game.

Northwestern has the “OR” listed on the depth chart at QB for this week, and we would have to guess that it will be Ryan Hilinski who comes out as QB1 on Saturday night. No matter who it is, don’t expect them to make a lot of big plays in this one.

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Fitzgerald on the Iowa secondary and the challenge they pose”

“They close the middle with their pressures and disguise their coverages … when you pop up on the tape and hit pause, they have great spacing and communication. They play smart defense and they’ve got great eyes.”

Northwestern Wildcats Preview

The Cats still have an outside, and we mean really outside, chance at making a bowl this season. Most likely, they’ll finish at 5-7 like they did in 2013 and 2014, but 4-8 is certainly very likely as well. This is similar to the 2019 team in overall quality, but that unit had a great defense, to go along with a horrid offense.

This squad is just mediocre to below, all around, for the most part. They don’t really do anything, among the major facets of the game, too exceptionally well. Evan Hull wasn’t first or second choice to be the feature back this season, but he’s stepped up to become the team’s primary weapon.

“Evan [Hull] has been great. What he’s doing on the field hasn’t been a surprise us, he’s stepped up and filled that role well. In the screen game too he’s been exceptional, so just him being a duel threat in that sense has been great,” said LT Peter Skoronski, the team’s best offensive lineman.

Never rule out the Northwestern Wildcats against the Iowa Hawkeyes, in the Pat Fitzgerald era though, EVER! Even if NU wins on Saturday, we can still say that we’ve seen bigger upsets than that in the series.

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Prediction: Iowa Hawkeyes 17, Northwestern Wildcats 7

Don’t expect “basketball on grass” or “the greatest show on turf” or anything like that this Saturday night. How is this a primetime game again? Why? At least when Ryan Field gets its renovation, in a couple years, it should have permanent lights. Because these temporary lighting fixtures, for night games, just doesn’t cut it.

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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