Northwestern hits the road for the first time in 2016 to face an opponent that is as familiar to the Wildcats as it is dangerous. Many of you will remember Iowa’s trouncing of NU in Evanston last year, when the Hawkeyes put up nearly 300 yards rushing in a 40-10 win. This Iowa team returns 15 starters from last year’s squad.
While Northwestern is in a tough fight for an outside shot at a bowl berth right now, revenge will certainly be on the Wildcats’ minds in this weekend’s Big Ten West matchup.
Let’s take a look at three things you should know about these Iowa Hawkeyes as we head into Week 5:
The two-pronged rushing attack could give Northwestern fits
LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley have been causing major problems for defenses in 2016. Daniels has amassed 301 yards (5.8 per carry) so far this season while Wadley has rushed for 274 (7.4 per carry), and the pair has seven rushing touchdowns between them.
Wadley has a track record of success against Northwestern; he ran for 204 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s matchup after he filled in for the injured Jordan Canzeri. The way Northwestern has defended against the run in 2016 (giving up 177.5 yards per game on the ground, 11th in the Big Ten), expect a big day from one or both of the Hawkeyes’ backs on Saturday.
The run defense isn’t near where it was last season
Iowa finished 2015 having given up the second fewest rushing yards per game (78) in the Big Ten, but this success hasn’t quite translated to 2016 — at least not to this point. The Hawkeyes have allowed 179 rush yards per game this year, over a 100-yard increase from last year, which is a tick better than Northwestern.
In their lone loss of the year, the Hawkeyes were outrushed 239-34 by North Dakota State in addition to giving up 193 yards on the ground to Rutgers in last Saturday’s narrow win. For all Northwestern’s offensive line struggles this year, Justin Jackson has continued to run well — especially on inside runs — and establishing a run game will be key to Northwestern finding some level of comfort offensively.
Iowa has owned this matchup recently
Given the upset at the hands of the Bison two weeks ago and a mere seven-point victory over Rutgers last weekend, Iowa doesn’t come into this game with a tremendous amount of momentum. However, in the context of the Iowa-Northwestern rivalry, the Hawkeyes have history on their side.
Iowa has won its last three contests against Northwestern by a combined margin of 78 points, and the Wildcats haven’t won in Iowa since upsetting the then No. 4 Hawkeyes 17-10 in 2009. With history, talent and home-field advantage on Iowa’s side, the Wildcats certainly will have their their work cut out for them this weekend.