Iowa officially became bowl eligible as they won their sixth game of the season defeating Northwestern 20-0 on Saturday afternoon. Obviously six wins and barely qualifying for a bowl game isn’t the goal of any season, but it is a road marker to celebrate along the journey to a potentially special season.
So not only has Iowa won two in a row after back-to-back losses, but those losses to Penn State and Michigan continue to look “better” as Penn State defeated Michigan State on the road and Michigan destroyed #8 Notre Dame at home.
Iowa obviously game-planned for Northwestern with the assumption that the Wildcats weren’t going to be able to put up many points. The Hawkeyes weren’t as aggressive as they’ve been in the past and twice punted on fourth and one on the Wildcat side of the field. While it may seem like a simple (and correct) decision, the ability to change your plan from opponent to opponent is what good teams do.
Northwestern is last in the Big Ten offensively so the strategy was simple. After the bye week, the Hawkeyes have to travel to Wisconsin and the strategy on defense will have to change to forcing the Badgers to beat Iowa through the air. If they can force the Badgers to go away from RB Jonathan Taylor, they have a chance. Offensively, Iowa will have to take a few more chances than they did this weekend but there is definitely an opportunity to beat the Badgers.
This week Iowa ran more than they threw. They ran for 135 yards and we all know that is almost a guaranteed victory! Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson were the feature backs against Northwestern and it’s apparent that Goodson has a special level in him and we should see even more of him against Wisconsin.
Nate Stanley only completed 12 of his 26 passing attempts but the most dynamic ones went to Tyrone Tracy and, wait for it...TE Sam LaPorta. Yes for the first time this season, Iowa looks to have a tight end that can put pressure on the defense. There were also a couple balls to LaPorta that were not counted either due to a questionable call on a drop or an offensive penalty. Look for LaPorta to build on the great week and become a big weapon the rest of the way out.
Defensively, Geno Stone and Dillon Doyle led the team with seven tackles apiece. Stone continued to hit players extremely hard, a la a current version of Bob Sanders. A.J. Epenesa had five tackles including 1⁄2 sack and fought through double teams and flushed the Northwestern quarterback into other Hawkeye linemen. Daviyon Nixon had two sacks and Joe Evans had 1 1⁄2 sacks in his first major chance at playing time.
Other things to note:
- Iowa had an interception from Chauncey Golston in the first half deep in Northwestern territory but ended up not scoring. But because Golston was tackled at the 21 yard line, Iowa remains one of seven teams in the NCAA that are still perfect within the red zone (defined as scoring either a field goal or touchdown when having a drive that is at least 1st and ten within the 20 yard line).
- Where was Oliver Martin? After a lot of discussion the past week about Oliver getting more opportunities with the injury to Brandon Smith, he was non-existent again.
- Weird fact, Iowa basketball has a regular season game before the football team plays again.
- Iowa State lost...Oklahoma lost...Texas lost, not a good day for the Big 12.
- My updated future line estimates: Wisconsin +10, Minnesota +1, Illinois -10, Nebraska -6. Does this make sense? That would put them at 8-4 (like usual) but I could see anything from 10-2 to 7-5.