Against Illinois, the Hoosiers finally closed out a game and prevented any hope of a rally by the Illini. This probably had more to do with Illinois putrid offense than it did with IU being all that much better.
Iowa is all around a better team that is very similar to Michigan State and not all that much better than Illinois.
Here's what to watch for:
- Run defense. In weeks past, IU has struggled against duel threat quarterbacks and zone read runs. Iowa is more of a traditional running team. They like to run between the tackles, an area that IU is much better at defending. Quarterback James Vandenberg is not a threat to run the ball and has negative 35 rushing yards this season. This is a game where IU wants to force Iowa into passing situations and the Hawkeyes style of play may lead to this.
- Less that average. Iowa is in the bottom third of the league in terms of total offense. They are 11th in the Big Ten offensively and 103rd in the nation. IU should have success similar to last week against Iowa, but without as many sacks. Iowa has only given up 14 sacks all season. Vandenberg hasn't been all that steller this season either, he has thrown only three touchdown passes to five interceptions and only averages 5.7 yards per pass. Getting him into long passing situations will be key.
- Clean pocket. Quarterback Cam Coffman, assuming he starts and stays in the game, should have plenty of time to pass the ball. Iowa has only generated nine sacks. Coffman has been poised in the pocket this season and doesn't seem to get flustered very easily. If Nate Sudfeld goes into the game, he should be happy with the protection and not bail on plays too early like he has in the past.
- Turnovers. Iowa has generated 15 turnovers this season and has only turned it over seven times. They are pretty good at protecting the ball, much like IU. The Hoosiers will have to continue to take care of the ball and not allow Iowa a short field. If IU can get Iowa on a long field, they should be able to get the ball back regularly.
- Rebound. Iowa is coming off two bad losses to Penn State and Northwestern. They will be looking to bounce back and need to beat IU and Purdue if they want a realistic shot at a bowl game. IU had a good chance to play spoiler this week.
- Defense. IU's defense has been pretty bad all season. Last week it appeared that they turned a corner and put out a solid defensive effort. In reality, they struggled and let one of the worst offenses in the league move the ball fairly easily. Illinois has given up a ton of sacks this season, so it was no surprise that IU was able to get a number of them. Iowa is not very good on offense, and IU could have another game that makes it's defense look good.
A lot has been written lately about IU having a chance to play for the Big Ten championship. While it is mathematically possible for them to reach this game, it's probably not likely. IU will have to win this week against Iowa, and the beat Wisconsin the following week.
On paper, this seems like a game that IU could win easily. We have some doubts about that as this will pit Iowa's strength, defense, against IU's, offense. We predict that Iowa wins a tight game, 27-24.
We'll be live tweeting the game tomorrow, @hoosiers101 so make sure to follow us.
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