#19 Iowa Hawkeyes at Northwestern Wildcats Game Preview

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Saturday morning brings a clash of two very contrasting styles, at least when it comes to the coaches press conference game when the Northwestern Wildcats host the #20 Iowa Hawkeyes. The visitors are led by head coach Kirk Ferentz, who is almost always very mild-mannered, and quite often vanilla in his media opportunities.

The Wildcats are led by Pat Fitzgerald, who is sometimes loud, always colorful, and quite often very funny in his pressers. Today, he was in rare form and we’ll get to all of that, but first we need to cover the FYIs.

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Let’s run through the game essentials for this one. If you’re going to be wagering on this game, like one would do at helpbet you’ll see the Hawkeyes typically backed around -9 to -11. Most sports books have the total at 39. The game will originate from Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois and will be broadcast on ESPN2, with Roy Philpott, Kelly Stouffer and Lauren Sisler on the call.

The radio broadcast is on ESPN1000; featuring Dave Eanet and Ted Albrecht. Now on to the fun stuff, and Fitzgerald’s presser today was certainly a boat load of fun. There were numerous memorable moments in this odd media session, but it will be likely be remembered first and foremost for this sequence:

This line was definitely something too-

(last time I was out drinking until 6am…I was like 2 years out of college. Knowing the dudes in that media room as I do, I GUARANTEE you NONE of them were out drinking until 6 am Friday night.nI’ve never partied with them, but I’m certain they don’t party at that level):

Northwestern Wildcats (1-5, 0-3) Preview

NU is off to their first 1-5 start since 1992, and if they call to 1-6, as most believe they will, then it will be the first time that has happened since 1989. Yes, things are so low in Evanston right now that comparisons are harkening back pre 1995 (year one A.D. in modern Northwestern football history).

One way to interpret the general tone, theme and content of Fitzgerald’s press conference today is this- the season is off the rails, he knows it, but he doesn’t have any answers as to why it happened this way or how he can fix it.

Hence the ctrl+alt+del reference. “When things aren’t going great and it’s a technology world that we live in, there are three magic buttons that fixes things: control-alt-delete,” Fitzgerald said.

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“It takes all three things at once to work. It might be the best t-shirt I’ve ever come up with.”

The most important area in need of fix is the passing game. Fitzgerald said it today: “Our QBR speaks for itself, having it in the 30s doesn’t let you win games, even in Madden.”

Five star recruit/Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson hasn’t played since Sept 28th and when the time came to put the back-up QB in this past weekend, he was passed over for someone else. He hasn’t been listed on any recent injury reports with any specific serious issues, so is it possible they’re going to redshirt him this year?

Some signs point in that direction, and it might just be the best for all involved. Although his statistics are very poor, they’re still superior to Aidan Smith’s, so he’s no answer either.

What makes the offensive collapse/non-existence of a passing game even more unexpected/maddening is that this program used to be cutting edge in this department. They basically started the spread-option trend in college football under Randy Walker two decades ago.

Go here to read more about how that happened, when/where it peaked, and then the descent began. If you’re not innovating/progressing your playbook with the spread as your system, well, you’re falling behind. Maybe this is the nadir for NU?

Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2, 2-2) Preview

Although they gave up a season high in points last week versus Purdue, Iowa’s win over the Boilermakers was a really nice bounce back victory. The Hawkeyes offense has been lackluster lately, but they got their run game going again and ended their two game skid, which consisted of losses to Michigan and Penn State.

The Iowa Hawkeyes don’t really stand out in any special way as overly exciting and in terms of defining what’s the most interesting thing about them right now….hmmmmm…..huh……well.

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Okay, so maybe they’ve been doing things in a ho hum workmanlike fashion, but here’s something to consider, the Iowa Hawkeyes have to be considered one of top contenders for the west division title right now. Why? They still play the three teams in front of them in the standings and none of the teams within that trio are overly domineering.

Wisconsin was exposed this week at Illinois, Minnesota doesn’t really begin their season until the week after next (thus we don’t really know yet what they are/are not) and all that preseason hype about Nebraska has been more sizzle than steak thus far.

Credit Bob “The Hitman” Sanders for his inspirational speech last week, maybe the prospect of ruining NU’s homecoming will provide added motivation this week.

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Prediction:  Northwestern Wildcats 13, Iowa Hawkeyes 10

This is a weird series, where odd things happen. Quite often, when you think NU is left for dead, they surprise you against the Hawkeyes. Or, if you look at it from an Iowa perspective, the Cats have often been the banana peel that they slip up on.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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