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What You Need To Know: Northwestern

Kain Colter is back, and what the 'Cats get out of him will determine what kind of fight they put up at Iowa this weekend.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

That de-escalated quickly. It was just four weeks ago that Iowa and Northwestern were a combined 8-1; the two teams haven't won since. Granted, their five combined losses have come against Ohio State (twice), Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota (lol) (LOL) (LOLOLOLOLOL) so it's not as if the cupcake parade has continued (LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLOLOLOL) and the teams just got worse; this is just the reality of tough competition catching up.

This is less an issue for Northwestern, though. Kain Colter should finally be back from an ankle injury that has bothered him for most of the season; he's been practicing all week, and although he hasn't been declared the starter yet, you don't practice if you're not going to play. We're assuming he's back.

That's not good news for Iowa, as the Northwestern train wreck has largely happened with Andrew Siemian wearing the stripey conductor's hat and Colter on the sideline. Siemian was long thought of as the better passer of the two QBs, but it's Colter who's completing more than 80% of his passes on the season while Siemian has completely stalled out under center.

It doesn't help matters for the 'Cats at all that star RB Venric Mark remains out with his own nagging ankle injury, because that takes away yet another dimension of the offense. Backups Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy are fine, but Iowa can shut "fine" down on the ground, especially if the QB isn't a serious threat to break a play himself. Thus, Northwestern needs Colter running the show as much as possible against Iowa, because Siemian can't beat the Hawkeyes by himself.

The interior line of the Wildcats is still in flux, which means this is a fine opportunity for the likes of Carl Davis and his friends at DT to wreak some havoc. Losing Dominic Alvis to a back injury hurts—he's been Iowa's most productive lineman—and if Northwestern is able to control the corners that injury will be a large factor in why.

So what you need to know is that Northwestern is slumping, just like Iowa, but it's going to be leaning on a guy who's been out with an injury that directly affects his mobility. If he's playing at less than 100%, it's a big help for the Hawkeyes. If he's fine, though... look out. This is the type of game Northwestern has feasted on in years past.