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Gettin Familiar with No. 13 Iowa

Hint: the fact that they are No. 13 Iowa means they are probably better than we be. A lot better. (Not that that hasn't, you know, been true in the past in games where NU has beaten Iowa.)

If you scared, say you scared. Then hit the jump for the rest of this post.

Thus far: Any summary of Iowa's season this year really begins with a snippet of Ricky Stanzi's speech post-Orange Bowl victory last year. And I quote.

There's nothing better than being American. This is the greatest feeling. If you don't love it, leave it, USA, number one.

My point is, they pretty much reached the pinnacle of success last year, going 11-2 and winning a BCS bowl. Sick. So that kind of set the standard for where their expectations should be this year. The dreams of being a title contender aren't there anymore - they ended after a fluky 34-27 loss to Arizona in week 3 that saw a special teams touchdown, pick six, blocked PAT, and four consecutive sacks go against Iowa. The other blemish against the Hawks was their 31-30 loss to then No. 13 Wisconsin, which saw a fake punt lead the Badgers on a scoring drive late. But they're still a damn good team: their 18-13 win against Indiana last week was their first by less than a touchdown all season long. (They almost lost on a last-second Damarlo Belcher touchdown grab, but, uh, he didn't grab it, which is sort of essential to scoring touchdowns.)

Us and them: Overall, it's brutal: NU is 22-46-3 all time against the Hawkeyes, which, for those of you math tools, means NU wins under a third of the time. Since 1995 (every NU fan's favorite words) it's been different, though, as the Cats have run off two streaks of four-out-of-five, meaning NU is 8-5 against Iowa. Notable wins are last year's, you know, where, uh, NU gave them their first loss of the season and they were ranked No. 4 and it was awesome, and two years ago, where, uh, NU was down 17-3 but forced five turnovers and won. Iowa was also NU's opponent the only time Evanston hosted gameday. So there's that. 

When they got the ball: As has been previously noted, Ricky Stanzi is the manzi. Remember when Dan Persa had absurd numbers and was leading the nation in all sorts of crazy statistical categories? (Well, technically, he still leads the nation in completion percentage, but that's neither here nor there.) Ricky Stanzi one-ups him in a lot of ways: 68.3 percent of his passes are complete, and, I mean, he has 20 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. THAT IS RIDICULOUS. Look at them stats! His two key targets are Marvin McNutt - McNutt! - and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos - DJK! - both of whom have relatively even numbers in terms of getting the ball, and are head-and-shoulders above anybody else on the team in terms of getting the ball. That being said, Stanzi to McNutt and J/K is open all day. Reports of the death of Iowa's running game were exaggerated, but not greatly: Adam Robinson has 806 yards on 4.7 per carry - not bad, not Shonn Greene, but not bad - including five 100-yard performances. However, oh no, he got a concussion against Michigan State! Didn't matter, because against Indiana, Marcus Coker backed up and filled in with 129 yards on 22 carries. But never fear, because Robinson will be back next week.

When we got the ball: It's Iowa. They're good at defense. They allow 14.3 points per game, which is 6th in the country. They allow 85.2 yards per game on the ground, including - WAIT FOR IT - 3.0 yards per carry. Jesus. The average play against Iowa goes for a yard shorter than the average play against Northwestern. The guy everybody knows is Adrian Clayborn, the defensive end/monster of a human being, but the guy who is putting up ridiculous numbers is junior defensive tackle MIke Daniels, who is starting for the first time this season, and has impressed, leading the team with four sacks and 11 tackles-for-loss. Boosh. Compared to the unmessable-with rush defense, which is amongst the best in the nation, the pass game is just average: Yes, the Hawkeyes have forced 14 picks - and run back three - 3! - for touchdowns - but teams are significantly more effective against the Hawkeyes through the air, so long as they don't throw it towards free safety Brett Greenwood and cornerback Shaun Prater, who are 1-2 in the Big Ten in interceptions.