It almost felt nice to have a weekend off. A weekend to take a breath and not stress about the Hawks. It gave me a chance to stop and take stock of what we have. Sure, things aren’t going as well as they were in 2015 like we hoped. But at some level, it was maybe a bit far-fetched to expect Iowa to match, or even come close to, their historical record of 12-2. An undefeated regular season isn’t even a given at Alabama, who has failed to reach that mark since the 2009 season. And while Iowa has laid some stinkers (NDSU and Rutgers games, I’m looking at you), they still currently enjoy a winning record overall and in-conference. A small nagging voice in the back of my head keeps suggesting that we, as Hawkeye fans, flew a bit too close to the proverbial sun last year and aren’t handling our fall with grace.
And then there’s the other voice in my head (should I be seeking professional help?) that reminds me that we have Michigan, Nebraska, and Penn State left to play. It’s telling me that the only game we’ll be favored in is against Illinois. Sure, the Illini aren’t good, but Iowa hasn’t looked good either. I guess that being an Iowa fan means that my brain is perpetually at war with itself.
That’s why I built the computer in the basement and fed it Halloween candy and data this weekend. Fat and full of candy corn and caramel apples (and running a little sluggishly, I might add), H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. pointed out that it is currently 5-3 when predicting Iowa football games this season. And looking at the rest of the season, I don’t see another place for the model to pick up another loss, unless Iowa turns things around. So what do the statistics say for Iowa this week at Happy Valley?
Thankfully, Penn State differs in one key way from previous opponents this season: they do not run two hundred plays per game. A thin Iowa defense is going to need every bit of help it can get, and hopefully this means they’ll spend less time on the field this week. In fact, I would hazard a guess that if Iowa can actually hold PSU to 65 plays, then the Hawks have a real chance to stay in this one, considering Iowa’s recent uptick in defensive success. That said, Iowa can not afford to key in too much on the run, as Trace McSorley has proven himself to be a capable quarterback. But forcing a turnover in a key spot is probably going to give the Hawks the edge they really need to keep this game close, as PSU has not been the best at protecting the ball.
In the end, I think the model is really reacting heavily to a stellar defensive performance by the Lions (coupled with OSU’s worst offensive showing in quite some time), and I expect a regression to the mean this week. I have a feeling this game will be closer than H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. says. And if Iowa can force and capitalize on a timely turnover or two, then I think this could easily be a tight Iowa win. Let me know your predictions for the score in the comments.