Iowa to face toughest defensive challenge yet vs. Indiana
Who: No. 9 Iowa at Indiana
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Indiana
Spread: Iowa -7
Matchup to watch: Desmond King vs. Nate Sudfeld
The IU quarterback is as accurate as they come in the B1G. That’s a good quality to have against a ball-hawking corner like King. In fact, ball-hawking might be putting King’s credentials lightly. The nation’s leader in interceptions has a knack for capitalizing on quarterback’s mistakes. It’s part of the reason Iowa’s opportunistic defense has thrived in 2015. He’ll battle a couple of emerging IU receivers in Simmie Cobbs and Ricky Jones, both of whom have done everything and more to fill a gaping preseason hole for the Hoosiers. We’ll see how far along they’ve come against a guy like King.
Thing I’m excited to see: Jordan Howard healthy
The last time we saw the IU tailback start and finish a game at 100 pecent, IU was 4-0. It’s no coincidence that the Hoosiers haven’t won a game since then. Howard played two weeks ago against Michigan State and still managed 7.1 yards per carry despite the fact that he was noticeably bothered by his sprained ankle. Apparently the bye week did Howard wonders. IU coach Kevin Wilson said that Howard is as healthy as he’s been since he suffered the injury against Ohio State. That’s huge for the Hoosiers against the nation’s fifth-ranked run defense. Nate Meier and Cole Fisher will have their work cut out for them.
Number to remember: 71
That’s how many points Iowa has in its last two games without a touchdown pass from C.J. Beathard. The Iowa quarterback is still hampered by groin and hip injuries, which limits him from being quite as mobile as he was earlier in the season. That isn’t necessarily a knock on Beathard, but more a reflection that the Hawkeyes can find plenty of other ways to generate offense. Kirk Ferentz hates the term “game manager” so I won’t go so far as to call Beathard that. Even though IU’s pass defense is the worst in FBS, still expect LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley to move the chains for Iowa.
Prediction: Iowa 42, Indiana 31
For all the attention Iowa’s soft remaining schedule has received, Saturday will present a new challenge. The Hawkeyes haven’t faced an offense with as much firepower as Indiana’s yet. The Hoosiers have the capability to establish balance that few in college football can. It could easily end up being Iowa’s toughest defensive game to date. Still, I don’t see IU winning the battle at the line of scrimmage for four quarters. The Hawkeyes will wear down the Hoosier front over time and improve to 9-0 to match the 2009 start.