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The Pants Predicts: Northwestern at Iowa

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Iowa v Northwestern
Can the Hawkeyes slow down Bowser and the Northwestern ground game?
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

A week ago, the Pants were feeling confident in a Hawkeye win over a depleted Purdue team that was set to be without their star WR Rondale Moore, their mastermind Jeff Brohm and potential several others. We were all pretty skeptical of going up against the Boilermakers, but the absences seemed too much to overcome.

We were wrong.

While Iowa seemed in control for a good majority of the game, they couldn’t seem to get a single defender on David Bell, let alone two, and we saw an uncharacteristically undisciplined Iowa team commit 10 penalties and fumble the ball away twice inside the opponent’s 10 yard line.

As we look ahead to week two, are we going to fall into the same traps? Probably! Iowa is a 2.5-point favorite a day before kickoff with the over/under falling precipitously to the 46.5 area. The Pants is once again on the Hawkeyes with all but one of us taking them to win outright and all but two of us calling for them to cover. On average, we’re expecting a final score of Iowa 25, Northwestern 17. That puts us pretty firmly on the under, a far cry from a week ago.

Here’s a look at our individual predictions.


The week one loss to Purdue was one of the more frustrating I can recall as an Iowa fan. Losing to Purdue is one thing. Losing while being able to impose your will running the ball and in the absolutely most predictable way possible on defense is irritating to say the least. Now Iowa has to turn around and match up with one of the most irritating teams they face every year.

As much as we saw Iowa dominate in the ground game week one, Northwestern made Maryland look like child’s play. The defensive struggles against a fullback filling in at RB and the history of Pat Fitzgerald scheming against Iowa’s defense (much like Jeff Brohm) have me concerned. However, I also think Spencer Petras is going to settle in over time and we saw some of the tools he has last week. I’m not counting on Brian Ferentz to call a great game, but even in a not great game a week ago the offense moved the ball very effectively and probably should have had another 14 points if not for a pair of untimely fumbles.

Those won’t happen this week. Not because they can’t but because statistically speaking it’s a virtual impossibility for a team with Iowa’s ball security history to make those same mistakes again. I also don’t see the Hawkeyes getting in the same universe as 100 yards in penalties again. Erase those and this looks a lot more like what we expected entering the season. You know, when Iowa was a 14-point favorite. I’m not saying it will be a blowout, but in one of the absolute ugliest of performances a week ago Iowa lost by 4 in the final minutes.

Iowa 27, Northwestern 24

Bartt Pierce

So that was one of the worst letdowns in recent memory. Purdue was without a star player, its coach, and its fans. We did so many things to win, and we lost. I’m pretty tempted to go with a huge Northwestern win here to see if that helps. I’m not sure I can mentally deal with an 0-2 start. I’m going positive one more week. Peyton Ramsey is a gamer. Isaiah Bowser the same. Northwestern also has some nice linebackers. Their receivers seem pedestrian. At least there’s not a David Bell on their roster. There aren’t many David Bells on anyone’s rosters. The Hawkeyes have to stop the run. Bowser and Drake Anderson are both better than Purdue’s Zander Horvath. I have faith in Phil Parker. Offensively, I thought much of the Purdue game was beautiful. I’m old school in that I love running the football. Brian Ferentz called a good game. Ihmir Smith-Marsette was off. He won’t be. The Hawks coughed up the ball in Purdue territory, both times seemingly in control. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, I know. Spencer Petras is going to be The Dude. Take care of the football, don’t make dumb mistakes (penalties), and we should be ok. If not, I may need someone to check on me. Go Hawks!

Prediction: Hawkeyes 23 Northwestern 21


Last week the offensive line showed me enough to have high hopes for the rest of the season. The mistakes that plagued Iowa in game one are ones that can be fixed, and fixed quickly. These aren’t deep personnel or program wide flaws.

Northwestern’s offense appears to have a nice bump this year with a new OC and new QB, but I’m not letting a big score against Maryland skew my thinking. The offense was effective, but aided by all sorts of Maryland mistakes on both sides of the ball. The stat that did stand out is that Northwestern really struggled to put any pressure on Maryland’s QB. They had an extremely low pressure rate, and that plays well for an improved Iowa offensive line.

Outside of linebacker, where Northwestern is REALLY good, I don’t see another position group where I’d trade personnel. I think Iowa uses a balanced attack to consistently move the ball and force Northwestern into long field situations. I don’t see their offense being able to do that consistently against Iowa’s defense.

Northwestern will be forced to bring linebackers and defensive backs to help their defensive line. Sam LaPorta and Nico Ragaini are going to be frequent targets and make Northwestern pay for the added aggressiveness.

Iowa 27, Northwestern 18


Here’s a stat: the last time Iowa came from a halftime deficit to beat Northwestern is 2007. Northwestern has done it four times since then, including three straight seasons from 2016-18. Northwestern is actually 7-2 when the halftime margin is Iowa +7 or less since Pat Fitzgerald took over in 2006.

The lesson? Score early and relatively often if you’re the Hawkeyes. The second quarter against Purdue was certainly a bright spot in hoping Iowa can carry over some offensive firepower. The other three quarters, not so much, but we’re being optimistic here.

My prediction is a little less optimistic, as I have a tricky time believing Kirk unleashes the offense after seeing a rash of penalties undermine the operation. So we’re getting back to the basics, aka the predictable offense of yore. Fitz will be ready because Fitz is always ready and I fear he might have an offense.

Northwestern 27, Iowa 20


Iowa’s opening loss to Purdue was extremely discouraging, but there are plenty of reasons to expect a better performance this week. Iowa’s rash of penalties and fumbles were so uncharacteristic that it’s tough to see them becoming a trend, and the defense should have a better showing without the specter of David Bell threatening to haunt any aggressive play call Phil Parker makes. Petras was shaky when his adrenaline was in full-gear at the bookends of the Purdue game, but looked extremely sharp for the majority of the contest which I expect him to build on this week.

There are plenty of football reasons to expect Iowa to win against Northwestern, from their superior talent on the outside their strong offensive line play and dangerous special teams weapons. But the heart of my pick comes down to a single stat and a single gut feeling; Iowa hasn’t started a season 0-2 since 2000, and it’s hard to imagine a program this proud letting Purdue and Northwestern be the teams that force them to break this streak.

Iowa 24, Northwestern 17


Welp. Last week was not what any of us expected, but I’m going to give us some leeway this week and this week only. The penalties were bad, but that’s a fixable problem. Spencer Petras’ accuracy issues will take more time, but hopefully that should improve, too. And hopefully Iowa will find ways to get Ihmir Smith-Marsette the ball.

An 0-2 start to this shortened season would effectively end any chance of salvaging it, but who knows. I’ll take Iowa this weekend because Northwestern is gonna Northwestern, but my initial 5-4 prediction for the season is looking pretty good right now.

Iowa 24, Northwestern 17

Ben Ross

I’m very lucky to find myself in the ominous reaches of Chicago, far-removed from the Northwestern echo chamber an entire 17 miles away from the Evanston campus.

To this end, I’ve done no research on Northwestern. I know they have an Indiana transfer at QB who beat out a Clemson transfer. I know that Bowser guy, like Purdue’s Horvath guy, is what we wanted Mark Weisman to be. And I know Pat Fitzgerald has made at least three private claims that he has willed the virus to leave his body by using Lake Michigan water in his Nespresso (which he only loads with K cups anyway.

So before I write anything else that can be considered libelous, I’m just going to predict an Iowa win, because I don’t see two lost fumbles and 100 penalty yards and a David Bell in the cards for this weekend.

Iowa 27, Northwestern 20

So there you have it, we’re all fools again. Don’t listen to us, but bet the under. What are you all expecting in week 2 against the Wildcats?