Maryland Terrapins (2-5, 0-3 B1G East, unranked) Indiana Hoosiers (4-4, 0-4 B1G East, unranked)
Saturday, November 7, 2:30 p.m., Memorial Stadium (the one in Bloomington)
Television: ESPN (nationwide)
Kickoff weather: 60 degrees and clear, with temperatures slowly dropping as the sun goes down.
Car Salesman Who Just Unknowingly Ate A Marijuana Brownie: Hey there, how you doing today? Gorgeous day out, isn't it? Man. Sorry if I have any crumbs on my jacket, I was just enjoying a snack in the break room! Anything you've got your eye on today?
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE BALL
Nate Sudfeld is the best passer in the Big Ten, and it's not even close. Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg may be better pro prospects, but Sudfeld is dominating the Big Ten in both passer rating and yards per game—and it's not as if Indiana has better complementary skill position players than, y'know, Michigan State or Penn State. His arm's good enough that Desmond King probably won't have a lot of routes to jump on Saturday, and his accuracy has improved substantially since his first season in Bloomington. Sudfeld definitely has an NFL body at 6'6" and 240, but the expected durability hasn't come with it; Iowa knocked him out for the 2014 season with a shoulder injury on a sack by Drew Ott and Carl Davis. Sudfeld also suffered an ankle injury against Ohio State that made him miss the Penn State game, but he returned against Rutgers and it shouldn't continue to be a concern now two weeks later.
Sudfeld is getting it done with a wide receiver corps that was unproven at best coming into the season, even before leader J-Shun Harris went down with a knee injury for the season. There's a Big 3 in terms of production, as Ricky Jones leads the way with 37 catches, 669 yards and five scores, and Simmie Cobbs and Mitchell Paige each have over 30 catches; nobody else on the team is even in double digits on catches. All three players are first-year starters, and Paige was a walk-on before this season.
In fact, while Jones is the downfield threat that Iowa's deep help needs to account for at all times, Paige is the type of guy that will drive opposing fans insane; he's just 5'7" and maybe a buck seventy, and he's a Wes Welker-type. Real lunchpail guy, y'know. Plays the game the right way, if you get what I'm getting at. Type of kid you can bring home to your daughter. Yeah. There'll probably be multiple instances where you ask how hard it can be to cover that guy, and if you say that I assume you have never had to match agility with someone who is that short. It's like trying to cover a rabbit that can catch a football.
Indiana welcomes back tailback Jordan Howard, a UAB transfer who was enormously productive before (again) an ankle injury against Ohio State. Howard has practiced without setbacks over Indiana's bye week, and Iowa should expect plenty of the Hoosier's strong, tough runner. In Howard's absence, the Hoosiers have had a Devine intervention, as Devine Redding has shouldered the bulk of the load, but at only 3.3 yards a pop he's not someone Indiana should be counting on come Friday.
We won't say Iowa should try to injure Sudfeld again; football is vicious enough without teams playing dirty, and rooting for dirty teams is how one loses one's soul. But Iowa certainly needs to prioritize getting to Sudfeld early and often, because for as great as he is as a passer, his backup Zander Diamont is on the other polar extreme of the spectrum. He's a model, evidently, but he's truly ungifted throwing the ball and only adequate as a runner. If Indiana needs Diamont to play significant snaps, Indiana is in serious trouble.
Car Salesman Who Just Unknowingly Ate A Marijuana Brownie: Yeah, Indiana just needs to figure out its, like... vibe, man. Just do what it is you do, y'know? I'm a car salesman. That's me. You're an insurance agent. That's you. This SUV's an SUV. That's it. You can't just... be two things, you know?
Actually, I was sort of hoping to look at that crossover, the beige 2015.
Car Salesman Who Just Unknowingly Ate A Marijuana Brownie: Nah man. We have 2016s. Live in the now.
Now is 2015.
Car Salesman Who Just Unknowingly Ate A Marijuana Brownie: Yeah, man.
Are you... are you doing okay?
WHEN IOWA HAS THE BALL
We have something to tell you that may shock and upset you. Are you sitting down? You may want to sit down. Okay, good. Here it goes:
Indiana's secondary is bad.
The Hoosiers have an objectively, inescapably terrible pass defense, ranking second-to-last in the nation in yards per game and 106th in opposing passing efficiency. It contributes heavily to the Hoosiers' dismal third-down defense, which is also healthily outside of the Top 100, ceding over 44% of third down opportunities. For an Iowa offense that has gotten increasingly creative in ways to keep drives moving this year, that's downright joyful news.
C.J. Beathard will have his best opportunity to air it out against a soft secondary, as Indiana has allowed 27 touchdown passes on the season, including 14 of 20+ yards and six for at least 50 yards. And that's just passes! With Tevaun Smith rounding back into form and Jake Duzey continuing to make strides (not to mention George Kittle's continuing emergence as a serious threat at TE), Iowa's downfield passing attack should be in fine form on Saturday. If it's not, worry.
That's not to say it's a given that Iowa can keep Beathard upright. Indiana's pass rush might be the only redeeming feature of its defense, as the Hoosiers boast 21 sacks on the season and 49 tackles for losses. DE Nick Mangieri leads the way with seven sacks and is an accomplished trumpeter, and DT Darius Latham is a productive space-eater who will probably play on Sundays. Indeed, his suspension-related absence is probably a main reason why Ohio State was able to retake control of its nail-biting 34-27 victory in Bloomington on October 3, as Ezekiel Elliott and the Buckeyes were able to establish a dominant run game without the threat of Latham plugging up the interior.
Akrum Wadley took another step forward in cementing his spot as the next big-time Iowa tailback, flashing some seriously Tavian Banks-esque moves before Kirk Ferentz essentially handed the offense to (co-starter, evidently) LeShun Daniels in the second half in a typically Ferentzian attempt to bleed clock and take the win.
Iowa needs to be able to move the ball this week. The College Football Playoff openly derided Iowa's offensive capabilities compared to the likes of Baylor and TCU, and while those concerns will go by the wayside once conference championships are handed out, they certainly played a role in the #9 spot everyone's evidently so upset about (even as Iowa's ranked higher by the committee than the lazy Sunday morning polls give the Hawkeyes). If Ferentz is serious about putting the team's best foot forward, he'll put that foot firmly on the gas pedal this Saturday.
The Iowa offensive line goes Boone Myers, Sean Welsh, Austin Blythe, Jordan Walsh, and Cole Croston across the board, according to the depth chart. That sounds about right. Unless and until Ike Boettger comes back, I assume that's going to be your starting five going forward.
Car Salesman Who Just Unknowingly Ate A Marijuana Brownie: Hey, I'm fine with this test drive, totally fine, totally fine, but maybe just ease off on the gas a tad?
I'm going 27 in a 25.
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wait—this—but it's just—
Car Salesman Who Just Unknowingly Ate A Marijuana Brownie: [turns volume way up without your permission] EVERYBODY WANG CHUNG TONIGHT!
Our old friend Mitchell Paige is Indiana's primary punt returner, and he lit Western Kentucky up for a 91-yard return earlier this season, but the Hoosiers haven't sprung him for a big gain since then. Kickoff return men Damon Graham and Devonte Williams are fine, if unspectacular. IU kicker Griffin Oakes is 10/12 for field goals, but only 2/4 from 40+ yards, and his long on the season is only 45. Basically, he's Daniel Murray. Beware.
Desmond King continues to be strong for Iowa in the return game, though it seems like the "he's thisclose to breaking one" feeling has waned in Big Ten play, and Indiana is not a particularly permissive squad on returns.
Marshall Koehn continues to bedevil Iowa—in the first half. He missed a 45-yarder just left (his left) against Maryland on Saturday, making it five straight games with a missed kick, either FG or XP, of some kind. This habit of his hasn't burnt Iowa yet, but it might, especially if it bleeds into actual pressure situations. Here are his numbers for the year, separated by half:
That's all to say that while Koehn's misses have been worrisome, they've at least come early (the missed XP came late in Iowa's blowout of North Texas), and Ferentz should have zero qualms about putting him on the spot when the game is on the line.
Iowa 41, Indiana 27
Car Salesman Who Just Unknowingly Ate A Marijuana Brownie: I'm just gonna take a nap in the backseat I hope that's fine
Car Salesman Who Just Unknowingly Ate A Marijuana Brownie: Just kinda tired.
Okay, guess I don't have any alternative, but do you have a score prediction for the football game?
Car Salesman Who Just Unknowingly Ate A Marijuana Brownie: WTF is footballlllllll