Sure, Iowa just beat Indiana, 45-24. But how much do we really know? What was really important about beating Indiana? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.
Well, at least we're not them. For as much as we've groused about Iowa's shortcomings this year, look where the Hawkeyes are now: 5-2 (2-1), and whipping fellow Big Ten member Indiana. Iowa's going back to a bowl for the 9th time in 10 years by the end of this season (barring outright catastrophe, anyway), and Indiana's going to have attended just one bowl in that same stretch. So, look: even for Big Ten teams, it can be so much worse than what Iowa's got, and it's nice to see the Hawkeyes reaffirm the fact that even in what you or I might call a "down" year, they're remaining on a much higher level than the Hoosiers.
More to the point of this game, Iowa's offensive leaders flexed nuts. Marcus Coker and Marvin McNutt were both over 100 yards by halftime, and James Vandenberg's final numbers -- 12-16, 253 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT, passer rating of 290.33 -- were filthy. Kirk Ferentz didn't get cute with the offense when it faced an inferior D; he basically challenged Indiana to stop the best players Iowa's got, and the Hoosiers obviously couldn't. That's not to say that we're exactly happy to see Kevonte Martin-Manley and his departure from the offensive gameplan, as KMM has all of four catches for 27 yards in the last three games (none of which came Saturday), but at least JVB was bombing Indiana's secondary with McNutt instead.
Third down is actually just first down in pupal stage. Iowa scored 45 points, all on offense, and Indiana managed just 24. Who managed more first downs? Iowa? OH HO HO NO, that would be Indiana with 24 on the day. The Hoosiers were 7-14 on third down conversions and 2-3 on fourth down, meaning that Iowa's defense allowed a first down after 9 of the 14 third downs. That's clearly better than the 16-22 ratio Northwestern put up on Iowa's defense last week, but still: jeez. And did we mention that this was the first start for Indiana true freshman QB Tre Robinson ? Because it was. At least last week, it was One-Legged Dan Persa laying waste to Iowa's third down defense; allowing an unheralded true freshman to post a line of 16-24, 197 passing yards, 1 TD, 16 carries, and 84 rushing yards in his first damn start is, frankly, a new low.
Want more statistical disaster porn? No? TOO BAD. Iowa is 112th out of 120 FBS teams in third down defense, allowing conversions at a 50.88% rate. On fourth downs, Iowa has given up 7 of 11 tries, good for 92nd in the land (hey, it's in the top 100). Altogether, the Iowa defense has allowed 161 first downs in 7 games, which puts them in a tie for 104th in the land. And that's against some sad competition. This is, flat-out, the worst defense since the opening years of the Kirk Ferentz era, and at least even then there were some future stars getting snaps. There's no Bob Sanders playing in the secondary. There's no Aaron Kampman playing on the line. Hell, there might not even be a Jared Clauss playing on the line at this point. We'll stop short of "nobody in this linebacking corps would challenge Fred Barr for a starting role" because that might be pushing it, but still: where's the base of talent for Iowa to build off of in coming years? James Morris, sure, but after that... who?
Welp, Indiana found something. One unheralded aspect of Indiana's defensive effort (which didn't exactly warrant much heraldry) was the four sacks the Hoosiers got on Vandenberg, usually by sending a speed blitzer around the outside. Clearly, there's a vulnerability in both Iowa's outside blitz pickup tendencies and Vandenberg's ability to step up in the pocket without losing command of the field. Hopefully, there's a schematic remedy for this, because if Indiana can take JVB down four times by just overloading the edge, Michigan State is going to get INFINITY SACKS in two weeks.
If Marvin McNutt keeps this up, we'lll... actually, hold on. We could go for hours on the type of season McNutt is putting together. Short version: it is pretty much unprecedented in Iowa Hawkeyes history, and it is a bigger threat to the Iowa record books than if we coated those record books and set them on fire. Check back here at 9:05 CT, and we'll have the nitty gritty for you, because it deserves its own post.