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INDIANA vs. IOWA: Game preview, odds, how-to-watch, and more

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Indiana could establish this team as one different from previous versions this week. That never goes well for this program.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (4-2 [1-2], #55 S&P+) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-1 [1-1], #26 S&P+)

When? Saturday, 10/13/18 12:00 PM, Bloomington, IN

Channel? ESPN2

Vegas? Iowa -5

S&P+ Projection? Iowa -5


We didn’t learn much about Indiana that we didn’t already know last week. Peyton Ramsey put up some gaudy stats while also showcasing some of his biggest weaknesses. The defense struggled against likely the best offense they’ll face all season. Every takeaway from last week’s game comes with the caveat that Ohio State is really damn good.

My stance on Ramsey is known. At this point, only time will tell whether he can get it done. But coming into this week, given how solid Iowa’s defense has been this season, I don’t have a great feeling about how things will play out.

On to the numbers.

Iowa Table

- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
INDIANA (#81 offense) 1.02 (117th) 44.6% (44th) 30.2 (66th) 3.97 (107th) 4 (25th)
IOWA (#8 defense) 0.90 (3rd) 38.3% (43rd) 29.8 (83rd) 4.15 (40th) 1 (50th)
- - - - - -
IOWA (#75 offense) 1.08 (105th) 43.1% (65th) 33.0 (16th) 4.45 (83rd) 1 (50th)
INDIANA (#38 defense) 1.11 (47th) 39.7% (62nd) 27.3 (33rd) 5.21 (112th) 4 (25th)

Indiana’s defense took a big hit across the board last week, which happens when the unit has an 11th percentile performance. Granted, the offenses Indiana will face the rest of the way - save for possibly Penn State - pale in comparison to the Buckeyes’. Still, a nice bounceback effort back home is possible in a match-up they have some advantages in.

Offensively, the unit moved up nearly 10 spots in S&P after last week’s performance. That being said, nothing about it changed. The rushing attack has swung a bit from being efficient to being explosive while the offensive line’s performance continues to plummet the further we go into the season.

The Opponent

Iowa is an interesting team. After battling some injuries on the line in the first two weeks, the passing game has come alive in the last three games. The rushing attack is below average but quarterback Nate Stanley has impressed the last three games with a pair of 300-yard performances and eight touchdowns.

The line has a sack rate of 2.8 percent, top 20 in the nation, and Stanley as a result has been efficient this season, completing 62 percent of his passes. Four separate players have at least 20 targets with two of them being tight ends. The team can spread the ball around and the passing attack can put up big numbers.

The unit is coming off arguably its best performance of the season in a rivalry game with Minnesota in which they put up 420 yards. In that game, the five receivers who caught passes had between 40 and 78 yards. There’s no one player you can key on through the air, which is part of what makes the offense hard to stop.

The flip side is that the rushing game is bad. The Hawkeyes are 121st in rushing S&P even with only a slightly below average opportunity rate. Not surprisingly based on that, the times the backs get to the second level, they aren’t doing much. Three different rushers have at least 50 carries this year with Toren Young the best among them with 286 yards. In theory, Indiana can make the offense one-dimensional and hope to key on Iowa that way.

But even last week, Minnesota did just that and Stanley carved up an above average defense to the tune 314 yards and four touchdowns.

The defense, meanwhile, is about as good as it comes in the conference and the nation. On the ground, they are second in the nation in limiting big plays, though they rank just 80th overall against the run. Through the air is different, though, with the defense ranking third against the pass while also limiting the big plays there as well (27th in explosiveness).

Iowa is susceptible to big plays early in drives, ranking 93rd on first downs on first or second down. But get into third down against them like many do and you’re likely leaving the field. The unit is great when blitzing, solid when backed up in the red zone and has one of the better defensive lines in the conference.

The potential good news is the defense is about as beaten up as a unit can be. Last week, the Hawkeyes started a pair of true freshman corners and have rotated through half-a-dozen linebackers due to injury. But none of those injuries have been season-ending and players are starting to return, meaning the unit is increasing in depth.

The key is the defensive line, though. Their sack rate is ninth in the country and they come up against an Indiana offensive line that is quickly trending in the wrong direction. It’s a daunting match-up for a struggling unit that could decide Indiana’s fate.

So long as Indiana can at least have a semblance of a run game, it takes pressure off Ramsey through the air. But if Iowa shuts down the run or jumps ahead and forces Indiana to pass, it could quickly turn into something like the three-interception, five-sack performance the Hawkeye defense had last week at Minnesota.

Things to Watch

  • Indiana offensive line vs. Iowa defensive line - It’s what we just talked about but it’s likely where this game is won or lost for the Hoosiers this week.
  • Takeaway luck - Indiana has been one of the best teams in the nation in takeaways with 13. If regression to the mean is coming, which it probably is, this would be a terrible week for it to happen.
  • Third downs - Indiana is a very good team offensively on third down while Iowa is above average defensively. Indiana needs to be able to piece together long drives on Saturday, which will likely include multiple third-down conversions. On the flip side, the Iowa offensive and Indiana defensive units are two of the best in the country on third down. It’ll be a battle worth watching all day.

Prediction

As many have alluded to, this is a game that Indiana could steal and take a ton of pressure off the team to gain bowl eligibility. And a win could put the Hoosiers back on track at an outside shot at eight wins. It would certainly give them a great shot at seven wins, which is a big accomplishment in itself.

But this is Indiana football. And any time this situation arises, they fall flat on their face. I’ll continue to assume they do so until I’m proven wrong. Iowa 31, Indiana 24