Iowa’s trip to Columbus to take on #2 Ohio State went about as well as planned. The Hawkeyes left with their tail between their legs thanks to a 54-10 beatdown at the hands of the Buckeyes, marking the largest defeat for Iowa in more than two decades.
Now the Hawkeyes return to Iowa City for a homecoming matchup against the Northwestern Wildcats in a battle to stay out of last place in the Big Ten West. The Cats come into the week with just one win on the season - the 31-28 season-opener against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. That means Northwestern has yet to win a football game in this country in 2022.
But that hasn’t ruled out the Wildcats from contention in the West. Despite sitting at just 1-6 overall and in last place in the division, Northwestern is still in a position to win the West and head to Indianapolis at the end of the year. Even with a loss this weekend, the dream is alive in Evanston.
Here’s the Big Ten West 7-Way tie scenario with 4-8 Northwestern winning the Big Ten West. It involves Northwestern going 1-8 then rattling off three straight wins. Enjoy!!!— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) October 24, 2022
Green = Win
Red = Loss. pic.twitter.com/3e87cgndhg
Suffice it to say there will be a lot on the line when the last two Big Ten West Champions face off on Saturday - not just for a shot at a return to Indianapolis, but also to avoid finding themselves at the bottom of the West standings come Sunday morning.
Here’s an early look at what you need to know about this week’s matchup.
Date: Saturday, October 29th
Time: 2:30 pm CT
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (1-6, 1-3) at Iowa Hawkeyes (3-4, 1-3)
Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
Preliminary Weather Forecast: mostly sunny with temps in the upper-50s, 5% chance of rain
DraftKings Opening Line: Iowa -10.5, O/U 31.5
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
To say these two programs are familiar with one another might be an understatement. This weekend will mark the 84th meeting all-time between Iowa and Northwestern in a series that dates back to 1897. Iowa holds the all-time series lead at 52-28-3, thanks in large part to a massive 21-game winning streak that spanned from 1974 to 1994.
Not only are the programs familiar with each other, but so are the coaches. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald are the two most tenured coaches in the Big Ten conference with a combined 40 years of experience at their respective schools. Since taking over in 2006, Fitzgerald and Northwestern hold a 9-7 advantage over Ferentz and the Hawkeyes over the last 16 meetings.
The Hawkeyes took home a victory a season ago in what has become known as an odd-year Northwestern season. The Wildcats finished 3-9 last year after falling 17-12 to Iowa in Evanston. Northwestern has won the West in each of the last two even numbered years, making the above Wild West scenario all the more interesting given the difficult start to the season for the Cats.
Notably, the Hawkeyes haven’t beaten Northwestern in Iowa City since 2014. That, of course, was not a banner year for Iowa. At this point, neither is 2022.
This week’s homecoming matchup will mark the 12th time the Hawkeyes have played Northwestern on homecoming. Iowa is 7-4 in such games previously. The last time these two programs faced off on Iowa’s homecoming was in 2016. Northwestern won that matchup 38-31.
Iowa is 16-5 in homecoming games dating back to 2000.
Preseason Prep Work
As we march toward kick off, be sure to check out our preseason preview for this week’s matchup. There’s loads of important details and unique looks at this week’s opponent, including these great stats:
6-3: Pat Fitzgerald has a winning record - by a not slim margin! - in road games at Iowa during his tenure as Northwestern’s head man. It includes each of the last three Kinnick Stadium matchups, with the Wildcats winning by a combined 12 points. Those sure were fun! Additional gambling advice months in advance, the nine matchups in Iowa have resulted in the under hitting six times. It’s even more staggering when you include Ryan Field games: the under is 13-4! (For what it’s worth, the streaks at Kinnick have gone 3 to Northwestern, 3 to Iowa, 3 to Northwestern)
125: Northwestern’s paltry 16.6 points a game ranked 125th out of 130 teams last season. It’s jarring to look at recent [West] division winners and see that three of the last four averaged less than 25 points/game. This conveniently leaves out the Wisconsin teams which averaged over 28 PPG. Big Ten West: offense optional!
[Editor’s note: boy does this one sting now. How great would 16.6 points per game be?]
5: Northwestern has held Iowa to 20 points or less in each of the last 5 outings. In Kirk vs. Patfitz matchups, Iowa has scored 30+ points in just 4 of the 17 contests. Pigs, mud, etc.
45.4%: Anchored by the losses of Chris Bergin (draft) and Brandon Joseph (transfer), the Wildcats return just 45.4% of their team’s total tackles & 35.3% of their defensive big plays, according to Phil Steele. It ranks them in the bottom 20 of both categories. There always seems to be a Wildcat LB in the mold of Fitzgerald, and Bryce Gallagher looks to be that guy, but will they be able to build a championship-level defense around him under second-year defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil?
Here’s a look at the preseason predictions for this one:
Staff Prediction: Iowa Win, 80% of the vote
Fan Prediction: Iowa Win, 91% of the vote
BizarroMath Prediction: Iowa 34.94, Northwestern 11.71 (Iowa +23.23), 87.26% chance of winning
Stay tuned all week as we dive deeper on the players, matchups and stats to know as the Hawkeyes face off with the Wildcats.