Week 9 - Iowa at Northwestern

Posted Oct 26, 2012

Week 9 Fearless Prediction & Game Preview – Iowa at Northwestern

Iowa (4-3) at Northwestern (6-2) Oct 27, 12:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal: The winner is still alive in the Legends while the loser is essentially done. But first, both teams have to get past a wildly disappointing loss.

Both teams collapsed last week, but in entirely different ways. Iowa was coming off a thrilling double-overtime win over Michigan State, but clunked at home against Penn State with a chance to make a huge statement. With winnable games against Indiana and Purdue coming up before the showdowns against Michigan and Nebraska, if the Hawkeyes come away from Evanston with a win, being 5-1 in conference play won't be far-fetched.

Northwestern flat-out choked away the game it couldn't give away. Losing to Penn State wasn't that big a deal considering it was an interdivisional matchup, but having Nebraska in big trouble was the moment when the Legends might have been there for the taking. Had the Cats not given up big plays late to the Husker passing game, and had Jeff Budzien pushed his game-winning field goal attempt a foot to the left, then this game would've had a much, much different feel. It has been a successful season already with six wins and bowl eligibility, but it's time to start pushing for more. The Legends title is still possible, but it's going to take a perfect run to get close.

Why Iowa Might Win: Iowa is finally facing a team that has as many problems with the passing game as it does. All of a sudden, the Wildcats can't seem to find any consistency through the air. There haven't been a slew of mistakes – the only two picks of the year came in the win over Indiana – but there were only 67 yards against Minnesota and despite the two touchdowns against Nebraska, the 16-of-37 day was a problem with too many stalled drives. Iowa's secondary got picked apart by Penn State's Matt McGloin last week, but for the most part it has been solid. It'll get dinked and dunked on, but it's usually able to make up for the mistakes with picks, giving up seven touchdown passes but picking off seven throws.

Why Northwestern Might Win: With star running back Mark Weisman hurting – he's iffy with an ankle problem – the Iowa offense didn't generate a thing on the ground against Penn State. The Hawkeyes managed just 20 yards on 23 carries, and without a strong passing game to pick up the slack, the offense failed in a blowout loss. Northwestern has been terrific against the run, allowing just 121 yards per game while not having too many problems against a mostly Rex Burkhead-less Nebraska, even though the D gave up over 200 yards. Iowa doesn't have the deep passing game to take advantage of a secondary that got torched late by Taylor Martinez and the Husker passing attack. As long as Iowa isn't running wild and controlling the game and the clock, the Wildcats should be fine.

What To Watch Out For: When is James Vandenberg going to get hot? The Iowa senior quarterback threw for 3,022 yards and 25 scores last season, but that's when he had a decent receiving corps to throw to. The thought before the season was that Vandenberg's experience was going to make up for the concerns by making everyone around him better. Instead, the air show isn't working with Vandenberg throwing just three touchdown passes with five picks on the year, while failing to hit the 200-yard mark in Big Ten play. Last year, he threw for 224 yards and two scores with a pick in the win over Northwestern, and he's going to have to be just as hot.

What Will Happen: Even with star running back Venric Mark a bit banged up, and even with the passing game a bit hit-or-miss, Northwestern will get just enough out of the diversified offense, and a good day from the defensive front, to slip by and get over the pain and anguish of a rough week.

CFN Prediction: Northwestern 24 … Iowa 16
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Northwestern -6 O/U: 49
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Girl, 1 – Don't Trust The B In Apt. 23): 3