The remainder of this Iowa football season seems like an afterthought around Hawkeye nation with most seeming quite pre-occupied with the announced departure of Brian Ferentz and the future of the Iowa offense. But Iowa does have four regular season games remaining and that gets rolling Saturday with a trip to Wrigley Field to take on the Northwestern Wildcats.
Like Iowa fans, Vegas expects the Hawkeyes to leave the offense at home when they travel to the Windy City. Our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook have the over/under on this one down to 30.5 total points as of Friday morning. That is, once again, the lowest over/under on record.
Here at The Pants, we’re ALWAYS on the under and that’s no different this week. On average, we’re calling for a final score of Iowa 15, Northwestern 10. More precisely, our predictions average out to Iowa 14.7, Northwestern 10.3. So, while we are firmly on the under, even at the lowest total in history, we are right on the 4.5-point spread from DraftKings Sportsbook. But by just two tenths of a point, we’re taking Northwestern with the points in this one. Only one of us is on Northwestern to win outright.
Here’s a look at our individual predictions.
Take a look at what Northwestern has done this year. After all the late summer drama with Pat Fitzgerald, they opened the season 1-2 with a dispiriting loss to Rutgers and a hammering at the hands of Duke. Since then, they hung with Penn State for a half (tied at 10 going into halftime; more than Iowa can say). They struggled with Howard - I’m not ignoring that result, but it’s not as important in my view - before they hammered Maryland and Brendan Sullivan had the game of his life. He threw a couple of passes in that game, especially the touchdown to Bryce Kirtz to tie the game at 14 late in the first quarter, that no Iowa quarterback can throw. They’ve already equaled their combined win total from the last two seasons. Somehow, they’re better after Fitzgerald’s demise. It isn’t a great team but they play hard and we know some of these not-that-great Northwestern teams have given Iowa fits in the past, and even beaten Iowa.
With Northwestern somehow not KO’d post-Fitzgerald and /waves hand all of the drama surrounding Iowa and their somehow-worse-than-last-year offense, Chicago’s Team does just enough to get out of the Friendly Confines with a win and knock Iowa out of West contention.
Prediction: Northwestern 13, Iowa 7
If I had been making a prediction on Monday morning, or really any time since about noon on the Sunday after the Minnesota loss until Monday afternoon this week, my prediction would have largely been for the same ho-hum thing I would put in virtually every one of these. “The defense is good for 1-2 short fields and perhaps 2-7 points of their own. They aren’t giving up more than two scores. Iowa wins 16-10.”
But what we’ve seen this week is angry Kirk. P*ssed off Kirk. Backed into a corner Kirk. That Kirk at every other juncture in his 24 years at Iowa has resulted in change. I don’t think we get some wholesale change to the offense, especially with this being fresh, Brian still running the show and the myriad injuries that have plagued this team all year. But everything I would normally say about the defense holds true and I think we’re about to get FU Kirk and IDGAF Brian.
Maybe hope is a better word. But I think we see a little more from the offense this week and at the end of the day, Northwestern’s defensive front is not good. They’re giving up 160+ yards per game on the ground. I think Iowa finds the ground game again and we see a few tricks up Brian’s sleeve.
Prediction: Iowa 20, Northwestern 10
This is a very interesting time for Iowa football. A change was needed. In Beth Goetz we trust. I feel like the rest of this season could go one of two ways. Kirk and the Hawks go bunker mentality and it’s the world against Fort Kirk - and they win four straight. Or, Kirk/Brian and company keep trying to hammer a round peg into a square hole. We could lose four straight. If Deacon Hill struggles, please let Joey Labas run around a little bit. Or give the damn ball to Coop and play “Backyard Football.” There has to be an “upside” in there somewhere. Go Hawks!
Prediction: Iowa 13 - Northwestern 9
This feels like Wisconsin or Purdue all over again. Northwestern’s offense is decent while Iowa’s defense is top tier. Northwestern’s defense is not great while Iowa’s offense is a slow-rolling trainwreck of dumspterfires driven by a conductor who knows he’s being let go as soon as he reaches the station. Nothing says “Sickos” like that combination.
Long story short, the defense keeps Sullivan and Kirtz in check, one of KJ2, LW4, or JP9 breaks a long run, Drew Stevens adds 3 FGs, and Tory punts a dozen times for 500 in a defensive struggle on a cloudy, likely windy, day in Chicago. This may be the Sickos Super Bowl.
Prediction: Iowa 16, Northwestern 9
This past week has been perhaps the most program-shaking since probably the Doyle scandal in mid-2020. I honestly have had to remind myself that Iowa actually has a game tomorrow. I’m serious. The spotlight is not just on the fact that Brian Ferentz will be shown the door after the bowl game, but the method in which the decision was made and the message an interim AD was sending to the longest tenured head coach in college football. In a way, a game is just what we need to feel a sense of normalcy again.
But instead we get Northwestern and I don’t have to tell anyone here how unnatural games against the Wildcats can be. Played in Wrigley Field there is a good chance these two teams combined score less than the Cubs have in a game this year. These are two very not great squads. However, I would not be surprised to see Iowa play with a similar circle the wagons mentality they did in 2020 and Kirk coaching from the Two Middle Fingers Up playbook.
Or maybe it’ll be the same old shit. I don’t know anymore, this season is bananas.
Prediction: Iowa 17, Northwestern 13
Aside from Iowa getting torched on defense, basically any outcome is on the table for this game. Iowa and Northwestern both average two yards per carry and produce a final score that would not look out of place at a baseball game? Absolutely! Iowa’s defense forces 4 turnovers and out-athletes the Wildcats at every turn en route to a convincing Hawkeye victory? I’d buy that. Iowa’s offense capitalizes on a weak Northwestern run defense and a healthier Kaleb Johnson/Jaziun Patterson and breaks the 25 point threshold for the first time since Week 3? Not the most likely scenario, but absolutely possible. Iowa’s heads are everywhere but on their opponent this week and the Hawkeyes lose a 17-0 shutout in a game that prompts serious debate within the fanbase about the longevity of the Kirk Ferentz era? Hopefully not, but also within the range of possible outcomes.
This pick is a relatively safe one and based on Iowa’s comparative athleticism talent and the fact that Pat Fitzgerald is no longer there to Shrek clap his way to ruining the Hawkeyes’ division title aspirations. But if Iowa leaves Wrigley Field on Saturday feeling like their team is subject to some form of goat-based curse, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Prediction: Iowa 17, Northwestern 9
I don’t know anymore, y’all. I correctly predicted Minnesota winning but it came in a way so awful for this offense that I’m back to square one. Deacon Hill is the worst quarterback I’ve ever seen wear the black and gold and it’s not close. So this one will be on the defense and special teams. I think Iowa can barely get it done, but a loss is just as possible here. This team is literally unpredictable at this point.
Prediction: Iowa 13, Northwestern 9
So that’s how we see things playing out this week. How about you Hawkeye fans? Can Iowa get things back on track? Let us know in the comments below!
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.