After their worst setback of the season, the road doesnâ€™t appear to get much easier for Kevin Wilsonâ€™s Indiana Hoosiers (1-6, 0-3). If past matchups in this series are any indication though, there are no guarantees in this weekâ€™s contest against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Opponent- Iowa Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-1)
On paper, Iowa appears to be a challenging matchup for Indiana. Kirk Ferentzâ€™s Hawkeye squad is an average to slightly above average B1G team, and enjoys a home field advantage. Theyâ€™ve suffered close losses to Iowa State and Penn State, but with the exception of the mere three points they managed against the Nittany Lions, Iowa has averaged more than 38 points per game on the year.
Their explosive offense starts with junior quarterback James Vandenberg. This year has been his first chance at extensive playing time after backing up Ricky Stanzi for two years, and heâ€™s capitalized, throwing for nearly 1500 yards and a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio. He doesnâ€™t represent the same type of duel-threat that Nathan Scheelhaase and Russell Wilson did the previous two weeks, but has been an effective red zone runner in his own right, accounting for three touchdowns on the ground.
The majority of the Hawkeye ground attack though, rests on the shoulders of sophomore tailback Marcus Coker. Coker, who measures in at 6â€™1â€, 230 pounds, is a physically imposing back in the mold of former Iowa back Shonn Greene, who currently starts for the Jets in the NFL. Coker hasnâ€™t broken many long runs this season but has still managed to average slightly more than 4.5 yards per carry and has totaled six touchdowns. If the Hawkeyes get the ball near the goal line, heâ€™ll likely get one or two chances to punch it in.
Probably the most dangerous facet of this Iowa team though is their receiving corps. It hasnâ€™t seen a tremendous amount of production outside of its top three players, but those three players have been very effective so far this year. Marvin McNutt and Keenan Davis have been phenomenal as outside receivers all season long, combining for all but three Hawkeye touchdowns through the air this year and recording a catch of 20 or more yards in every game except against the Nittany Lions. Add Kevonte Martin-Manly to that mix and Iowa has a shallow but dangerous trio of receivers.
X-Factor- Iowa Defense
If Iowa has a weakness, itâ€™s their bend-but-donâ€™t-break defense. The Hawkeye scoring defense has been effective thus far, allowing slightly more than 23 points per game, but the amount of yardage it allows tells a different story. Iowaâ€™s opponents have actually outgained the Hawkeyes this season by nearly 20 yards per game, despite Iowa boasting a pretty impressive offense. Ferentzâ€™s defense has done a good job at forcing field goals instead of touchdowns, but is far from impenetrable. Iowa is a three-touchdown favorite coming in mostly on the strength of their offense, but their defense has proven to be vulnerable. If the Hawkeye defense holds the Indiana offense to field goals rather than touchdowns, Iowa has nothing to worry about.
Iowa Statistics (6 games)-
Total Offense- 386.5 ypg (253 passing, 133.5 rushing)
Scoring Offense- 32.5 ppg
Total Defense- 405.5 ypg (253.2 passing, 152.3 rushing)
Scoring Defense- 23.2 ppg
Iowa Individual Leaders-
Passing:Â Â Â James Vandenberg- 60.5% completion rate, 1488 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs
Rushing:Â Â Marcus Coker- 127 rushes, 578 yards, 6 TDs
Mikaâ€™il McCall- 9 rushes, 61 yards, 0 TDs
James Vandenberg- 36 rushes, 59 yards, 3 TDs
Receiving: Marvin McNutt, Jr.- 35 catches, 573 yards, 5 TDs
Keenan Davis- 27 catches, 421 yards, 4 TDs
Kevon Martin-Manley- 18 catches, 208 yards, 3 TD’s
IU was obviously overmatched last week against Wisconsin, and while that may be the case this week as well, it wonâ€™t be by nearly as much. The Hawkeyes are a solid team with a very good offense, but they donâ€™t pose the same defensive challenge Indiana has seen so far from Penn State, Illinois and Wisconsin. In addition, IU always seems to play Iowa tough and has made this matchup interesting over the past five years or so.
Unlike earlier in the year when the Hoosiers relied heavily on the passing game, Indiana may focus more on running the ball on Saturday. Sophomore running back Stephen Houston is gaining about 88 yards per game in conference play and is averaging nearly 5.2 yards per carry over the same period of time. Houston showed his unique blend of speed and power on a 67-yard touchdown run last week, and heâ€™s gained Kevin Wilsonâ€™s praise for the effort heâ€™s shown recently.
The receiving corps will be short-handed this week as Damarlo Belcher aggravated a knee injury last week against the Badgers and Duwyce Wilson hasnâ€™t been very productive in recent weeks as heâ€™s been dealing with a nagging lower back injury. Kofi Hughes, Cody Latimer and Jamonne Chester will likely need to step up as targets in the passing game as a result. Hughes is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns, tied for second in receptions and is second in receiving yards. Heâ€™s enjoying a breakout sophomore campaign and will probably be featured prominently featured in the Hoosier game plan.
The Indiana defense had made strides in every game until the Wisconsin game, and the coaching staff â€“ Mike Ekeler in particular â€“ voiced their displeasure with the effort they saw against the Badgers. The Hoosiers had looked stronger on that side of the ball before taking a step back against the Wisconsin, and a bounce-back performance wouldnâ€™t be surprising. Defensive end, Bobby Richardson is expected to play this week after missing last weekâ€™s game with injury, and senior linebacker Leon Beckum will start for the first time since suffering an injury in the opener against Ball State.
X-Factor- Ed Wright-Baker
Ed Wright-Baker didnâ€™t have a great game last week â€“ throwing for fewer than 100 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions â€“ but will have an opportunity to put up respectable numbers against an Iowa defense currently allowing more than 250 yards through the air on a weekly basis. Wright-Baker may be a little banged up mentally and physically, but he faces a prime chance to redeem himself after last weekâ€™s shaky performance. As mentioned above, Iowaâ€™s defense is the weakest unit that IU has faced during the conference season and represents a golden opportunity for Indianaâ€™s offense to get untracked. That starts with the Wright-Baker.
Hoosier Statistics (7 games)-
Total Offense- 357.1 ypg (223.4 passing, 133.7 rushing)
Scoring Offense- 21 ppg
Total Defense- 436.1 ypg (208.7 passing, 227.4 rushing)
Scoring Defense- 31.7 ppg
Hoosier Individual Leaders-
Passing:Â Â Â Ed Wright-Baker- 59.7% completion rate, 979 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs
Dusty Kiel- 47.6% completion rate, 427 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:Â Â Stephen Houston- 73 carries, 354 yards, 2 TDs
Dâ€™Angelo Roberts- 45 carries, 194 yards, 1 TD
Matt Perez- 51 carries, 174 yards, 4 TDs
Receiving: Damarlo Belcher- 25 catches, 286 yards, 1 TD
Kofi Hughes- 16 catches, 252 yards, 2 TDs
Dre Muhammad- 16 catches, 161 yards, 0 TDs
Duwyce Wilson- 15 catches, 176 yards, 2 TDs
Prediction- 38-28 Iowa
Indianaâ€™s offense has its best game of the conference season, capitalizing on a creaky Iowa defense, confidence from last seasonâ€™s close call and motivation after being embarrassed last week. Houston runs well, and Wright-Baker connects with Hughes for two scores through the air. The Hawkeyes prove to be too much though, as their offense breaks through late to put a surprisingly close game out of reach.