Game 9: Indiana Hoosiers v. Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Hawkeyes

2010 record:  6-2 (3-1)

2009 record: 11-2 (6-2), beat Georgia Tech in Orange Bowl

2010 Sagarin: 11

2009 Sagarin: 9

Coach: Kirk Ferentz (12th season, 87-57)

Series: Iowa leads 40-27-4

TV: noon, Big Ten Network

Blog: Black Heart Gold Pants

Note: I paid a visit to the BHGP podcast earlier in the week.  Here it is.

Since long before the season, I had targeted the two game stretch against Illinois and Northwestern as the key to the season.  The ideal outcome would have been 2-0, but 1-1 would have given IU some remaining hope.  Now the Hoosiers are through it, and went 0-2.  So much for that.  Now, the murderous stretch that made the previous two games so important begins: IU hosts Iowa, travels to Wisconsin, plays Penn State in a neutral site game in Landover, Maryland, and then travels to Purdue.  The second half of this stretch is less murderous that it appeared at the beginning of the season.  Penn State is rebuilding a bit, and Purdue is much worse than expected.  Still, IU has not shown much life against any decent team.

 

Last year's Iowa game, which was played a week after the epic collapse at Northwestern, was yet another blown lead for the 2009 Hoosiers.  Bad luck, bad officiating, and turnovers allowed the Hawkeyes to storm back and end up with a comfortable 42-24 win in a game that was close for most of the way.  IU had its way with Iowa earlier in the decade, upsetting the then-ranked Hawkeyes in 2006 in Bloomington and then winning 38-21 in Iowa City the next season.  Since then, however, the Iowa program has rebounded, and the Hawkeyes won a BCS bowl last season. 

Many of the Hawkeyes' contributing offensive players will be familiar to IU fans.  Ricky Stanzi earned a "big play" reputation last year but was pretty inconsistent, and threw 5 interceptions against IU.  This year, he has been excellent.  Stanzi is completing 68 percent of his passes and has thrown 19 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions.  Adam Robinson is Iowa's leading rusher, with 868 yards, 10 TDs, and 4.7 yards per carry, but injuries may keep him out of the game.  Top receivers Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt are back, and tight end Allan Reisner is Iowa's third-leading receiver.  As usual, the Hawkeyes combine a steady offense with a punishing defense, ranked #12 in FBS in total defense, and particularly strong against the run.  The Hawkeyes, I'm told, have injury problems at linebacker, but considering the way Iowa consistently sends players to the NFL and replaces them, I can't imagine it will be a huge problem for IU. 

This game presents an opportunity for IU to show some life against a quality team.  Other than the Northwestern game, and it's far from clear that Northwestern will even win another game, that hasn't happened this year.  I wish I could give some positive outlook to this game, but ultimately, for IU to win or to compete, the Hoosiers will have to continue to improve on defense and find a way to recapture the early season rhythm on offense.  IU has some injury problems on offense, particularly with Ben Chappell's ankle (he showed up on Monday in a walking boot, but isn't on the injury report) and the absence of Darius Willis for the rest of the season.  

I don't think this team will roll over, but I do think the Hawkeyes present too much of a challenge.  Iowa 31, Indiana 13. 

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