Northwestern suffered their first loss of the season last week to a Michigan team that is currently soaring up the rankings, but the Wildcats return home this weekend for a crucial matchup with the Big Ten West-leading Iowa Hawkeyes. It's also the homecoming game for this year, and the Wildcats will be rocking some pretty cool throwback uniforms to commemorate the 20 year anniversary of the 1995-96 Rose Bowl team.
There's no better homecoming opponent, it seems, than the Hawkeyes, one of Pat Fitzgerald's most hated teams and a team that would provide a huge opportunity for the Wildcats to get on the inside track on the road to the Big Ten Championship game. Also, if the Wildcats win, they'll be eligible for postseason play for the first time since the 2012-13 season. Here are our picks. Share yours at the bottom!
Henry Bushnell: Northwestern 20, Iowa 0
Two things: 1. Iowa is decimated by injuries. 2. Iowa is bad. Northwestern will move the ball with outside zone runs and the underneath passing game, and offensive coordinator McCall will have a bounce-back week as a playcaller. Northwestern's defense gets revenge for last year and sacks C.J. Beathard five times. Fitz fists pumps all day.
Josh Rosenblat: Northwestern 24, Iowa 20
This prediction is all about Iowa's health on offense. With both starting offensive tackles most likely sitting out the contest, the four-headed, defensive-end monster of Dean Lowry, Deonte Gibson, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Xaver Washington will finally get back on track after a lackluster performance against Michigan. Iowa QB C.J. Beathard -- a player whose ability to scramble makes him unique -- is hobbled by a groin injury as well, making him a less dynamic and mobile target for Northwestern's defensive line. One of those four ends will cause a fumble, leading to a Northwestern short field and that could be the difference in the game.
Every Week Is Hate Week
Every Week Is Hate Week
Zach Pereles: Iowa 13, Northwestern 10
I know, I know, I hate this pick too. But Northwestern, a run-first run-until-Justin-Jackson's-legs-fall-off offense, is facing an Iowa team that's sixth in defensive run S&P+. Sixth. For reference, Michigan was fourth, and you all saw how that game turned out. And honestly, I'm not sure that Mick McCall will open up the playbook, even if it's painfully obvious that he needs to do so. Iowa doesn't have near the skill position players or incredible athletes that Michigan does, but the Hawkeyes do have a bunch of mean, big, strong, corn-fed linemen. Iowa wins the battle in the trenches and the Wildcats can't get a consistent offense going as the Hawkeyes sneak away with a close win in Evanston.
Sam Brief: Northwestern 24, Iowa 21
Northwestern fans can't look at Saturday's Michigan performance as indicative of too much—the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country right now. Look for the Wildcats defense to get back on track at home against a good, but not great, Iowa team and give a struggling—but fixable—offense plenty of short fields and opportunities to score.
Josh Burton: Northwestern 17, Iowa 13
I don't envision a scenario in which Northwestern plays as badly this weekend as the Wildcats did last Saturday against Michigan, especially with Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard dealing with injuries. I predict both a big bounce-back from the team and from Clayton Thorson/Justin Jackson, who each were not good in Ann Arbor.
Ian McCafferty: Northwestern 27, Iowa 21
This game scares me much more than it did last week. I know that momentum doesn't actually matter that much week to week, but also the 2013 Northwestern football season was a thing that happened. It's not nearly the same situation as 2013, but that's still in the back of most of our minds. As for this game itself, this is as close to a "must win" as Northwestern is going to have all season, and I expect them to respond accordingly. The defense is going to come out angry and force some turnovers. As good as Iowa's rush defense is, their pass defense is pretty average (62nd overall). Thorson will have success throwing the ball and that will open up a couple of big plays for the running backs. Northwestern takes a big lead early and then holds on for dear life in the fourth quarter for the win. All of this is of course contingent on Northwestern actually deciding to throw the ball, so you never know.
Lyndsey Armacost: Northwestern 24, Iowa 13
Northwestern was bound to have a poor performance at some point and, having it against Michigan's defense, is not the end of the world. Coming off of last week's loss, Northwestern will be refocused and, after losing multiple players to injuries, they have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Iowa has had a weak schedule so far and I expect Clayton Thorson to have his best passing game of the season.
Zach Wingrove: Northwestern 20, Iowa 13
I expect this to be a bounce back week for the Wildcats. The offense will make adjustments with the game plan and not be nearly as predictable on the first down, the offensive line will play better and Justin Jackson will find the end zone once after the worst game of his career. On the defensive side, I think Dean Lowry and the rest of the defensive line will be able to exploit Iowa's inexperienced offensive tackles and force pressure on C.J. Beathard all day.