It's a brisk morning in Evanston, Illinois, one that feels much more ripe for a mid-November matchup than a mid-October one. Nonetheless, it's fitting for No. 20 Northwestern (5-1 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) to host No. 17 Iowa (6-0, 2-0) at this time, as this game's implications could very well be felt in November.
The top two teams in the Big Ten's West division in 2015, Iowa and Northwestern have both surprised this season. The Wildcats, after starting the season 5-0, faltered in a 38-0 loss at Michigan last week while Iowa has continued to win behind the play of quarterback CJ Beathard.
For Northwestern, this game could get the team back on track toward the Big Ten title game. The loss to Michigan doesn't help the Wildcats, obviously, but it wasn't a death sentence either. Northwestern is still very much in the hunt for the West crown and Pat Fitzgerald and co. have a chance to take over the top spot with a win over the Hawkeyes.
Iowa has put up the second-most points per game in the Big Ten this season at just a shade under 32 per game. While Northwestern's defense gives up the third-fewest points in the conference at 12.2 per game. Along with Beathard, Iowa features a strong running game led by Jordan Canzeri and his 116.2 yards per game average.
But the Hawkeye offensive line could be in for a tough day as they will likely have to replace both starting tackles due to injury. That could give Northwestern's foursome of talented defensive ends -- Dean Lowry, Deonte Gibson, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Xavier Washington -- a chance to get back on track after a slow week against Michigan.
Here are picks from the Inside NU staff, as well as all of our preview content from the past week.
Also, a quick weather forecast:
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