Have the past three weeks done anything to dampen our opinions on Northwestern? Apparently not. It's picks time.
Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
To me, this is a fascinating matchup because both of the offenses can exploit the defenses' weaknesses. The Iowa offense has improved since last year and seemed to really find its groove last week against Ohio State. The Hawkeyes have a dominant offensive line and a great power runner in Mark Weisman, and once they get the run game going, they take advantage in the play-action passing game. Iowa has historically used a lot of the 22 personnel package (two backs, two tight ends), but last week it exploited Ohio State with 13 personnel (one back, three tight ends). NU has struggled to stop power runners and stop play-action, so this looks like a pretty bad matchup for the Wildcats.
On the other side of the ball, things set up nicely for NU. Iowa has a solid defense and a much better font seven than it had a year ago. However, the Hawkeyes have historically struggled against running quarterbacks, and those struggles continued last week against Braxton Miller, who made things happen on broken plays. Kain Colter has that same ability. Add in the fact that Iowa's secondary has a tendency to give up some big plays, and NU's offense should be able to move the ball. Expect some issues in the red zone, but also expect to see a much improved offense.
If Iowa can grab control of the tempo, it can certainly win this game. However, the Hawkeyes are going to have trouble continuing the efficiency they had last week. They'll move the ball, but so will NU. Expect a lot of field goals and a tight game.
Northwestern 26, Iowa 23
Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
Some big Northwestern football news came down Thursday: defensive tackle Sean McEvily, who has missed the past four games with a lower-body injury, was not listed on the weekly injury report. That means he should (re: should) be available forSaturday, which would be a boon for Northwestern’s run defense (ranked 8th in the Big Ten), which – whether or not McEvilly plays – has proven vulnerable against big, powerful backs that seek contact and try to punish defenders. Iowa’s Mark Weisman, a 6-0, 236-pound workhorse who ranks second in the Big Ten with 136 carries, qualifies.
Getting McEvilly back should help Northwestern slow Iowa’s ground game, but will the junior’s return in and of itself be enough for the Wildcats to snap their three-game losing skid? I think so. Northwestern has had Iowa’s number in recent years, having notched four wins out of their last five meetings. Make it five out of six….in an ugly, low-scoring, cringe-inducing game that no one other than Wildcats and Hawkeyes fans will watch for longer than 10 minutes.
Northwestern 20, Iowa 17
Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)
Northwestern gets Kain Colter back, which could provide a big boost to the offense, but it will take more than the return of one player to fix the ineptitude that the Wildcats have displayed the last two weeks. Receivers have been dropping balls, the offensive line has been allowing too much pressure, and quarterback Trevor Siemian hasn’t been as accurate as he was at the beginning of the season. Until they fix those issues, this offense won’t intimidate anyone, even Iowa’s defense. Iowa’s offense will stick with the run and eventually wear NU down to preserve a close win.
Iowa 28, Northwestern 24
Josh Rosenblat (@JMRosenblat)
Throughout Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure at Northwestern, the Wildcats have really had the edge over Iowa. A lot of that has to do with Northwestern’s ability to spread out the Hawkeye defense and take advantage of gaps with offensive speed. Getting Kain Colter back is huge for Northwestern as the dual-threat quarterback helps to keep Iowa on its toes defensively. Also, the return of Sean McEvilly could also play a big role. I don’t expect McEvilly to be in good enough condition to play the whole contest, but bringing him in on occasion could prove to be a game-changer. As usual, though, this game will probably come down to Northwestern’s ability to stop the run. Iowa’s run game is no easy task, but Northwestern’s defense might to just enough to eek out a win at Kinnick Stadium. This is a pretty much a must-win for Northwestern when looking at their bowl eligibility with games against Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State coming up.
Northwestern 23, Iowa 20