Iowa Hawkeyes vs Northwestern Wildcats Game Preview, Prediction

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The Northwestern Wildcats will play at the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday, much like they did in the last serious global pandemic year, 1918. This fact is quite significant as Iowa was the only Big Ten opponent that Northwestern, then known as the Purple, had who remains in the league today.

NU beat Amos Alonzo Stagg, who was having a down year at Univ. of Chicago, in their other conference game that season. More on the 1918 Iowa Hawkeyes and the 1918 Northwestern Purple can be found elsewhere on this site, and it’s linked below. After all, we’re here to preview this pandemic year’s match-up, coming up on Halloween.

Northwestern Wildcats at Iowa Hawkeyes FYIs

Kickoff:   Saturday Oct 31, 2:30pm central, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City

Weekly COVID-19 results in Iowa Hawkeyes Athletics:   6+,   647-

Radio Preview:   Catch me on KGYM, ESPN Radio Iowa City/Cedar Rapids, 5pm cst, Thursday Oct 29

1918 season recaps and results:   Iowa Hawkeyes    Northwestern Wildcats

Spread:   Iowa Hawkeyes are 2.5 point favorites

Broadcast:   WGN Radio AM-720; ESPN, Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky & Allison Williams

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Northwestern Wildcats Preview:

In the 43-3 season opening blowout of Maryland, Pat Fitzgerald won his 100th game as Coach of Northwestern. NU has won 540 games in their history, and Fitzgerald has been involved in 28% of them. He won 24 as a player, 26 as an assistant.

Coming off the worst season in his career in 2019, things seemed to have turned around overnight. Makes sense as they have a new, solid, experienced, accomplished transfer QB in Peyton Ramsey, and a new offensive coordinator in Mike Bakajian. They also have their best running back from 2018 returned from injury in Isaiah Bowser.

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Pairing him with Drake Anderson, NU offensive player of the week and son of all-time leading rusher Damien Anderson, and you have a nice 1-2 combo.

 “You see fundamentally, if it starts up front with the O-line, our base, our feet, our hands,” Fitzgerald said Monday.

“There’s some things in the backfield we want to get cleaned up. Some of the things we did really well in practice, we abandoned a bit once we got in the arena.”

“They played well enough for us to win, but there’s huge room for fundamental and technical improvement…We’ve got a huge test against the Hawkeyes, they’re outstanding in their front seven.”

“Time to bring your own juice!” As we keep hearing.

That’s our position group match-up focus from the Northwestern side- OL vs Iowa front seven.

The team’s best pro prospect, OT Rashawn Slater has opted out of the season, to focus on NFL Draft preparation.

However, he’s left his mark on the position group. LT and 4-star prospect Peter Skoronski said on Zoom yesterday that Slater has been a great resource both before and after he opted out, and that he feels lucky to have him providing some pointers.

OL Coach Kurt Anderson says Skoronski is athletically talented and very bright; that he anticipates the game slowing down for him as he gets more comfortable and starts to pick up on defensive tendencies. He’ll have to learn on the fly this week, with a pretty tough challenge.

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Iowa Hawkeyes Preview:

First off, some transfer news, announced this morning- running back Shadrick Byrd and linebascker Yahweh Jeudy will enter the NCAA transfer portal, at the end of the semester.

It feels, to some Hawkeyes fans that Northwestern has Iowa’s number lately, but it’s actually a fairly even steven series lately. (It’s 4-4 over the last eight). It FEELS like NU has the advantage because they seem to win the “big ones” in this series, and when they do they’re almost always the underdog.

Usually, it’s at Kinnick Stadium too, with two such examples being 2009 (when then knocked off a top 5 ranked undefeated Iowa team despite having to play a QB with no previous experience) or 2018 (when they clinched the Big Ten West title with plenty of season left to play).

Looking ahead to this week, we focus on Iowa WRs vs. NU secondary matchup. Brandon Joseph, singled out for praise this week from Fitz, was asked by a reporter/famous former defensive back about prepping for the Iowa receiving corps and he mentioned stopping #6 and #89 for Iowa, that’s Imir Smith-Marsette and Nico Ragaini, respectively. Cam Ruiz mentioned them earlier this week, so clearly that is a point of emphasis this week.

Associate Head Coach (DBs) Matt MacPherson said Smith-Marsette is a great athlete, has top end speed and a very large catch radius, especially off play action situations in single coverage.

“When you have tall wide receivers, the further down the field they go, the taller they get,” MacPherson said. That’s in reference to the jump balls, the fade routes, back shoulder throws and the outside routes were he can have a positional  advantage.

Joseph is filling in for safety Travis Whillock, who opted out this season. Ihmir Smith-Marsette was held without a catch last week at Purdue, but had a nice run off a reverse.

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Ruiz will have the primary assignment of trying to shut or slow down ISM.

Last week, Iowa just did not use him enough, plain and simple. Kirk Ferentz and his staff just didn’t use their playmakers enough, and the result was a loss to a Purdue team that was without their best player and head coach.

Iowa did themselves in by playing their cards too close to the vest, but making two big mistakes that ended up doing themselves in anyway.

Expect some changes this week, maybe they’ll get more FANCY!

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Prediction: Iowa Hawkeyes 27, Northwestern Wildcats 21

Since the de facto year one A.D. of NU football, Northwestern is 13-10 against the Hawkeyes, but UI still holds a 51-27-3 advantage all-time, largely due to the dominance during the Hayden Fry era. This week it feels like we’ll see more of who both those teams really are. Northwestern is not as good as they looked against Maryland; Iowa is better than they played at Purdue.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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