After going 1-1 on a key road swing, the Hoosiers return home for two home games that will define the season.
2012 record: 4-4 (2-2)
2011 record: 7-6 (4-4), lost to Oklahoma in Insight Bowl
2011 Sagarin: 45 (IU was 139)
2012 Sagarin: 66 (IU is 59)
Coach: Kirk Ferentz (14th season, 100-70)
Series: Iowa leads 42-27-4
Last IU win: 9/29/2007 (38-20 in Iowa City)
Last Iowa win: 10-22-2011 (45-24 in Iowa City)
Gametime: 3:30 Saturday
TV: BTN (Eric Collins, Derek Rackley, J Leman)
Radio: IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Buck Suhr, Joe Smith)
Line: Indiana by 1.5
Blog: Black Heart Gold Pants
Game notes: Indiana, Iowa
A week after ending an 11-game Big Ten losing streak, the Hoosiers host the Iowa Hawkeyes in an unusual position: as the favorite in a conference game. The last time IU was favored in a Big Ten game was in 2007, when the Hoosiers were two-point favorites at Northwestern on Novemvber 10, 2007. IU lost that game 31-28. The last time IU was favored in a conference home game was on October 6, 2007, when IU, as a 13 point favorite, beat Minnesota 40-20. IU was last favored over Iowa in 2000, when the Hoosiers won 45-33 as a 14-point favorite.
That 2000 win was the final win in a three game winning streak over the Hawkeyes. Since then, the Hawkeyes have generally had the Hoosiers' number, but not always. In 2006, Kellen Lewis threw 3 touchdown passes to James Hardy and led IU to a 31-28 home upset of the #13 Hawkeyes. In 2007, in Iowa City, IU won 38-20. Lewis threw 3 touchdown passes, including one to himself on a very strange play perhaps best remembered for Lewis's backflip into the endzone. In 2009, IU blew a 14 point second half lead against the undefeated and top five-ranked Hawkeyes, thanks to some poor decisions, odd officiating, and one of the worst bounces I've ever seen. In 2010, of course, Damarlo Belcher dropped the game-winning TD late in the fourth quarter. So, IU has won five of the past 12 meetings with Iowa and lost a couple of heartbreakers. Not a bad showing against a respectable program.
Of course, after the Orange Bowl appearance following the 2002 season, and especially after making Kirk Ferentz one of the best-paid coaches in college football, the Hawkeyes were hoping for more than respectable. Iowa has lost at least 5 games in 5 of the past seven seasons, and including Saturday's game, it seems likely that Iowa will be favored in only one of its remaining four games. If the Hawkeyes lose to IU, then they must beat either Michigan or Nebraska to qualify for the postseason. The Hawkeyes haven't missed a bowl game since 2007 and haven't finished the regular season with a losing record since 2000.
I really don't know what to expect from this one. The Hawkeyes seemed to be pulling things together when then whipped Minnesota at won at Michigan State. On the other hand, the Hawkeyes have been listless against Northwestern and Penn State, and early in the season lost to Central Michigan and Iowa State and barely escaped against Northern Illinois. IU has been competitive in every game but hasn't won a home game since week 1. The Hoosiers haven't won consecutive Big Ten games since 2007, when IU beat Iowa and Minnesota in successive weeks. In 2006, the Hoosiers won @ Illinois at against Iowa in consecutive weeks. So, perhaps it's a positive omen that Iowa has been involved on both "recent" occasions.
Much more on this game as the week continues, of course. As I write this post I am reading tweets from the Kevin Wilson press conference. It seems that after weeks of worrying about his team's fragile psyche, Wilson is elate to be poking holes in an IU win (14 missed tackles, 1-13 on third down, etc.) . This game is important. The Hoosiers are favored, and it's no exaggeration to say that a win would make next week's IU-Wisconsin game the most important game IU has played since 1993. That makes this one a big deal as well.