It’s been a rough several weeks for Hawkeye fans. But, despite the abysmal offense, Iowa is still alive in the Big Ten West. So to is Northwestern, which has undergone an even rougher patch. After defeating the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Ireland, the Cats have lost seven straight games state-side.
That difficult run is the cause for our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook favoring the Hawkeyes by 11 points as of Friday morning. The miserable offenses of both teams resulted in an opening over/under of 31.5 total points - the lowest over/under of the entire season. That has since climbed to 37 points because apparently there are people out there who have not watched Iowa and believe the stats are just wrong.
At The Pants, we’re almost entirely on the Hawkeyes because we’re ready to be hurt again. All but one of our staffers is taking Iowa to win outright. However, with an average score prediction at 17-10, we’re not willing to give the points. We are firmly on the under in this one and would have been even before it made the jump mid-week.
Here’s a look at our individual predictions for this week.
Iowa’s offense continues to know no lower bounds and that’s a major concern in a matchup with a coach who has been perhaps as big a thorn in the side of the Hawkeyes as anyone else during the Kirk Ferentz era. That’s reflected in the over/under on this one as the Wildcats have a pretty dismal offense themselves. In the end, I trust that Phil Parker’s bunch can win this one entirely on their own after seeing them make a competitive game out of Ohio State for nearly an entire half with one of the worst offensive showings in modern college football history.
I suspect the offense finds a bit more success this week simply by not turning it over 6 times and I do think the line will be more effective against NW than they have been the last few weeks. I could actually see the offense scoring a touchdown of their own this week, which would be neat! I think the Hawkeye defense continues to do their thing and creates 2+ turnovers of their own and we see Tory Taylor recover from one of his worst outings as a Hawk.
Prediction: Iowa 17, Northwestern 13
I remember when I would log on to Twitter to check in on some recruiting news, information about an upcoming Hawkeye opponent, or a piece about how a former Hawk is doing. Those were the days. Now it feels like every day there is an article about A) a new level of ineptitude regarding Iowa’s offense, or B) now what did Kirk say?!? Iowa football is literally one of my favorite things in life. I’m more of a basketball guy/former coach, but Iowa football has always been more important to me. My son is a first-year student/football player at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. I have enjoyed watching him and his teammates compete this year. I have seen many Division III games the last two years. I unequivocally will say that I would take every single offensive coordinator I have seen over Brian Ferentz. Following Macalester football has also forced me to watch Hawk games on my phone and/or watch the recorded game on Sunday. In a way, it has been a perfect year for this - Hawkapathy is gaining steam. There is not much joy in Mudville. The Iowa offense has sunk to a level where we now feel bad for the players. All of my ire is now directed at Kirk and Brian. Shame on you for not going harder into the portal. Or for not realizing that Brian is in over his head. Or for having Charlie Jones languishing at fourth on our depth chart. Or... whatever. Anyway, I guess we play a game this Saturday. Both Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzerald are hall of fame coaches. Both are struggling this year. I’m sure before the game they will laugh about how dumb we all are. I want Iowa to play well and win. I don’t care who our QB is as long as he plays well. Unless we score on defense, I don’t see us winning. [Sorry for the “Old man yells at clouds” vibe] - Go Hawks?!?
Prediction: Northwestern 17, Iowa 9
My biggest worry about this game should be Pat Fitzgerald and his off-the-charts hatred of Iowa. Even though Northwestern is putting the “j” back in the name, this is still Iowa Week, his favorite week of the year. They’ve lost 12 of 13 games dating to last year so this is definitely a low ebb for Fitz - it would be 13-straight if anyone other than Scott Frost was on the Nebraska sideline in Dublin - but even those low ebb Northwestern teams are trouble for Iowa. You know, like last year.
But I’m not as worried about the coach that loathes Iowa. I’m worried about the coach that actually coaches Iowa, who spent a press conference Tuesday afternoon then a call-in show Wednesday night obsessing about questions from a reporter in Ohio and the “tone” used in the “interrogation” six days ago. I legitimately ask - is Kirk’s head in the game this week? This game usually requires extra attention and detail regardless of Northwestern’s status because of Fitzgerald, yet Kirk is out here worried about tone from a reporter. With ALL of the other issues surrounding the football program, he’s focused on that? That’s a major red flag for me. This is a game Iowa simply cannot lose. If Kirk wishes to keep any semblance of sanity around the program and possibly turn the temperature down even a tiny bit, they have to win Saturday in an effort to get 6 wins (I don’t care about the actual bowl game, and while I know I’m tired of hearing about practice, the practices before a bowl are manna from heaven for this program).
I still think Iowa has more talent, even with a horror show offense, and they have BY FAR the best group on the field with their defense. They should win. But Kirk seems off in the weeds. I hope I’m wrong. Just don’t lose - lose Saturday and Kirk’s not going to want that smoke.
Prediction: Iowa 20, Northwestern 3
This week has just been miserable as for us Iowa fans. The blowout loss to Ohio State last week was bad enough. The Cleveland.com article was bad enough. But add in Kirk’s unforced error at his Tuesday press conference by out of nowhere insulting columnist Doug Lesmerises and, by extension, every other journalist in the room. Every Iowa fan — hell, every football fan — in America knows the Iowa offense is a joke right now, and the last thing it needs is Kirk shaking the hornets’ nest further and then shoving it squarely on his head.
We need a game badly to wash this week away, but it just so happens to be against a team and coach who has routinely punched above their weight to beat the Hawkeyes. In one way this is the best game the Hawks could have: an opponent which is struggling just as much as Iowa is, and what should be a win. But remember, this is Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern, so in another way it’s the worst game we could have after this past week. If the Hawks lost to the Wildcats here, the angst surrounding the program this week will seem like a walk in the park by comparison.
However, I trust Iowa’s defense to stop Northwestern’s offense more than vice versa, and as long as the offense can just do something, anything to move the ball and get points, the Hawks should come out on top. The Wildcats are averaging 2.5 turnovers per game, so the Hawkeye D should have opportunities to give the offense short fields.
Prediction: Iowa 20, Northwestern 13
As stubborn as Kirk Ferentz is, I have to imagine Iowa will start Alex Padilla against Northwestern. Not only did the 2nd-stringer play well in relief of Spencer Petras against the Wildcats last year, but with all of the toxicity surrounding the program, it’s hard to imagine the coaches rolling out Petras to a chorus of boos in Iowa’s first home game in nearly a month. I have to think Kirk’s PR team would advise him against such a move.
Whether Iowa’s offense can ultimately improve much with Padilla at the helm remains to be seen, but the Hawkeyes should be able to score enough points to beat an atrocious Northwestern team at home. The Wildcats have the sixth-worst turnover margin in the country and are second in the nation in giveaways through seven games, which is hardly a recipe for success against a defense as opportunistic as Iowa’s. The Hawkeyes will play it safe and keep the ball on the ground, which happens to be the best strategy against a run defense as woeful as Northwestern’s. Don’t expect an offensive renaissance, but Iowa should at least show some signs of improvement as they claw their way back to .500.
Prediction: Iowa 20, Northwestern 9
Is anybody else terrified for Saturday? We all know P** F********* has been scheming up Iowa since the Wildcats beat Nebraska in the opener. What a kick in the nuts a loss on Saturday would be… but it ain’t happening Hawk fans! Iowa is going to win at home against Northwestern for the first time since 2014. I think Johnson finds some room in this game and a new energy at quarterback creates just enough of a spark on Saturday. If the Hawkeye defense can keep new Wildcat QB Brendan Sullivan from scrambling, I don’t see this one being close. In Iowa terms of course.
Prediction: Iowa 23, Northwestern 6
I don’t know anymore, y’all. I just don’t. I’m so so over this season, and the Ferentz era and...everything. It’s certainly possible Iowa wins this weekend and tallies its last win of the year (likely). It’s just as possible that they lose. I do think that the defense will be the key here, but who knows. We can’t count on this offense to score any points, but I think the defense might. Northwestern is bad. So are we. This will probably be the last time I predict a win for this team this season.
Prediction: Iowa 13, Northwestern 6
So there you have it, very few points in a game that someone will reportedly have to win. What’s your prediction for Saturday’s matchup, besides bleeding eyeballs?