The second half of the season starts Saturday! Northwestern has an opportunity to get over .500 for the season, but a difficult test stands in the way in the form of Big Ten West opponent Iowa. The two programs have formed a rivalry of sorts in recent years, and last year's contest was one of the most exciting Northwestern games of the season. Here are three things to know about this year's Iowa team:
1. Beware of Akrum Wadley
Northwestern fans, you probably know Wadley. He's scored six total touchdowns in the last two NU-Iowa games, including a 204-yard, four touchdown performance in the Hawkeyes’ dominant 40-10 win in 2015. He has 483 yards this season and 4.1 yards per carry, and he's had some electrifying runs:
Wadley is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, so it'll be important for Northwestern to account for him leaking out for screen passes. Otherwise, the Wildcats will look like these defenses:
My personal favorite - Akrum Wadley turns into a video game and scores a touchdown against Iowa State to force overtime pic.twitter.com/Qt8WZvovxp— d money 313 (@airdeemoney30) October 17, 2017
Akrum Wadley's 70 yard TD against Penn State pic.twitter.com/dxYqLfVH8f— Devin Keller (@DevinMKeller) October 11, 2017
2. Iowa's defense is stout
Led by stud linebacker Josey Jewell, the Hawkeyes have found their groove on defense this season, allowing just 21 points to Penn State and 17 to Michigan State (both losses). The unit ranks 23rd nationally in S&P+, and has done a great job of limiting big plays this season, especially in the passing game. Everything really starts and ends with Jewell, though. He's a legit All-American candidate who already has 30 more tackles than of any of his teammates, and has amassed a whopping 9.5 tackles for loss this season.
The area to attack Iowa is in the running game. Saquon Barkley gashed Kirk Ferentz's team for 211 yards earlier this season, and, even though he's the Heisman frontrunner, it's still telling. Iowa's run defense does rank second in the country in power success rate, though, so feeding Justin Jackson on first and second down may be key.
3. The Hawkeyes' offense is a second-half group
This one may be a bit fluky, but, for some reason, Iowa's offense has been significantly better in the second half than in the first this season. The offense's S&P+ ranks 58th and 59th in the first and the first and second quarters, but eight and ninth in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. Leading that charge is quarterback Nate Stanley, who has thrown 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions this season. He isn't super mobile, and doesn't throw for a ton of yards, but he keeps the Iowa offense on schedule, and he doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes.
So far, the Iowa offense has made some great halftime adjustments this season. We'll see if that continues Saturday.