It’s time to put last week’s beatdown in the rearview mirror and take a look at the upcoming (and homecoming) opponent, the Io_a Hawkeyes. In his twentieth year with the team, Kirk Ferentz has led his squad to a 5-2 record, suffering two tight losses to Michigan and Penn State.
Without further ado, here are three important facts for Northwestern fans to be aware of when it comes to the 2019 Hawkeyes:
Io_a’s defense is the real deal
While Ferentz’s team doesn’t have the most dominant offense, its defense is able to compensate (sound somewhat familiar?). Through seven games, Io_a has conceded only 275 yards per game, good for 10th in the nation, and forced nine turnovers. Last week’s victory over Purdue, in which the team surrendered 20 points, was the most it had given up in one outing all year.
There are a number of impact players on the defensive side of the ball, each boasting an impressive level of experience. Senior linebacker Kristian Welch leads the group with 47 tackles, while fellow senior Michael Ojemudia has amassed two interceptions and four pass breakups. Junior duo A.J. Epenesa and Chauncey Golston flank the defensive line, combining for five sacks.
Perhaps the most impressive stat from the Hawkeye defense is the 11.6 points per game they have yielded. That number slots them in at fourth in a stacked Big Ten (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State), but fifth in the nation. In short, it’s not easy to move the ball against this squad, whether on the ground or through the air.
Northwestern has had Io_a’s number of late
The ‘Cats currently hold a three-game win streak in the matchup, with the most recent being a historic Big Ten West-clinching victory last season in Iowa City. Marked by a memorable throw and catch by Clayton Thorson to Bennett Skowronek, NU edged the Hawkeyes 14-10.
In 2017, the two teams were deadlocked going into overtime, where a Thorson sneak was the difference, giving the Wildcats a 17-10 win in Evanston. The 2016 iteration of the battle followed a different script. Northwestern won a 38-31 contest behind three touchdowns from Thorson and 171 yards from JJTBC.
The Hawkeyes’ last victory over NU was a 40-10 shellacking on the tail end of the brutal two-game stretch in 2015 where the ‘Cats lost to Michigan and Io_a by a combined 68 points. The Hawkeyes also maintain a dominant record in the overall series between the two teams, with 50 wins to Northwestern’s 27 (and three ties mixed in).
But of late, this is a team that certainly has not earned the W that we here at Inside NU tend to leave out of their name.
Senior QB Nate Stanley has a familiar doppelgänger
If you compare the college stat lines of the two quarterbacks, the Io_a quarterback looks like a slightly more efficient version of four-year Clayton Thorson. The two certainly share a similar style of play as well. Like Northwestern’s recently graduated four-year starter, Stanley has a big arm and a good head on his shoulders, but he isn’t exactly a game-breaking type of player.
The 6’4”, 242 pounder has slightly regressed from a sophomore campaign in which he tossed 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions, but Stanley is still a very capable quarterback with NFL aspirations. The Wisconsin native is projected to be drafted, but where he falls is highly up for debate. Mock drafts have Stanley all over the board, from early-middle rounds all the way back to the sixth and seventh.
This year, he’s thrown just nine touchdowns to five interceptions, but is on pace for a career-high 62 percent completion percentage as well as a career-high in yards. Stanley has been much maligned by Hawkeye fans given some relative early struggles, which seemingly aren’t commensurate with his senior status, but he has the talent to turn things around. The polarizing signal caller will undoubtedly be an interesting player to follow for the rest of 2019 as he concludes his time in college.