Iowa and Northwestern are two very different teams in terms of scheme, which is part of the reason the Wildcats have given the Hawkeyes trouble over the past decade. Iowa's defense has struggled to adapt to mobile quarterbacks, and the disciplined NU teams of the latter part of the 2000s methodically worked their way down the field against Iowa's bend-don't-break defenses.
This year, the schemes are still different. Iowa is a power team while Northwestern is a spread team (even if not how we've become used to seeing NU spread teams operate). But strangely, when you look at the stats, Iowa and Northwestern are almost exactly the same.
Admittedly, this post would have looked a bit better last week, but thanks to Maryland getting blown out by Wisconsin (stupid Maryland), Northwestern and Iowa have separated themselves a bit in the S&P. But when we look at three different charts, the similarities are striking.
S&P+ Before Maryland Screwed It Up
Those similarities are truly incredible. I can't imagine this happens much ever, let alone for two teams that will be playing each other next. But alas ...
S&P+ After Maryland Screwed It Up
That's still pretty close, and when you add FEI into the equation, it's about as close as the first week overall.
These teams are even bad at the same things. Iowa is 103rd in passing, while Northwestern is 97th. If it weren't for Justin Jackson (who Iowa wanted, ironically), then the offensive ranks would be even closer.
We'll have a much more in-depth (and much better written) look at why these programs are in similar spots right now, but the numbers behind this game are pretty uncanny. In all likelihood, the game will come down to whether Iowa can get a few big plays and whether Northwestern can attack the Hawkeyes' linebackers. But as of now, this is about as much of a toss-up as you can get.