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Three things to know about Iowa

Spencer Petras might be the weakest Power Five QB the Wildcats have faced this year.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday, the Wildcats take on Iowa at Ryan Field. After back-to-back losses, the ‘Cats will try to bounce back against the struggling Hawkeyes. Northwestern has won four of the last five matchups against Iowa - a trend they’ll look to continue.

Their offense has been miserable

How bad has the Iowa offense been? It is 120th in the FBS in total offense - 19 spots below Northwestern. Yes, you read that correctly, the Hawkeyes are worse than the ‘Cats, who have been held to under 20 points three times this season. Spencer Petras is averaging 6.7 yards per completion and has been sacked three or more times in five of the Hawkeyes’ eight games. Against Wisconsin, Tyler Goodson had 27 yards on 13 carries and the Iowa offense only mustered 156 yards.

During their winning streak, the Hawkeyes won the turnover battle consistently. But in the past two games, Iowa has given away the ball eight times, making that a much tougher task than it was previously. The ‘Cats have forced three turnovers in the past two weeks, and if they’re up to the task on Saturday, they will have the opportunity to force Petras and the rest of the Hawkeyes offense into a continuation of a trend that could doom Iowa once again.

The defense has carried the team

While we’re on the topic of turnovers... the Hawkeyes forced 19 of them in their first six games — the most in the FBS — and they still have a top-three scoring defense in the nation. Iowa is especially good against the run, with Jack Campbell leading the team in tackles with 64. The Hawkeyes aren’t as good against opposing passing attacks, but Riley Moss has four interceptions and has returned two of them for touchdowns. Lukas Van Ness and Joe Evans have harassed opposing quarterbacks, combining for seven sacks.

Collectively, the Hawkeyes allowed an average of 13 points per game during their win streak, but against Purdue and Wisconsin they’ve given up 24 and 27 points, respectively. Unable to keep up their turnover production, the Hawkeyes have had trouble getting off the field, which has become a problem given the offense’s inability to sustain long drives. Without elite defensive play, Iowa has been exposed as a pretender.

Pat Fitzgerald is 9-6 against the Hawkeyes

Fitz has had success against Kirk Ferentz’s squad in the past, and after their hot 6-0 start, the Hawkeyes have looked miserable in their last two games. They’ve been outscored by a combined 37 points and have been outgained by 307 yards.

Ferentz has a losing record against the ‘Cats, but the last time these teams met in Evanston, Iowa handled the ‘Cats 20-0. Ferentz also holds a 168-106 record as Iowa’s head coach, including 103-77 in conference games. His 168 total wins have made him the fourth-winningest coach in the history of the Big Ten. Now, as both of their teams are in desperate need of a win, the two longest-tenured active Big Ten coaches will meet for the 16th time this Saturday.