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HERE'S THE THING: INDIANA

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Indiana has acted as the barometer for five of Iowa's last six seasons, which means Iowa had better improve Saturday or face another season of disappointment.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

In many ways, Saturday's game against Indiana is about the rest of this season.

It's true in a statistical sense.  In recent years, Iowa's performance against Indiana has a direct, linear statistical correlation with the Hawkeyes' record over the remainder of the season.  Two data sets are considered in perfect linear correlation if their correlation coefficient is 1.  The correlation between the margin of victory/loss against Indiana and Iowa's record for the remainder of the year is .989.

Indiana Graph

That's more than a little relevant and, given that Iowa hasn't found a way to blow out anyone yet, a bit disturbing.  It's not as if Iowa only returned to offensive ineptitude this year.  Rather, that offense was in place for most of those games.  And Iowa's performance after those games has not been good (10-12 overall after the IU game from 2008-2012).

The correlation isn't just the continuance of a trendline for each season, either.  Iowa had to stage a miraculous second-half comeback to beat Indiana in 2009.  The Hawkeyes went just 2-2 in the four games after that, but still finished seventh nationally.  In 2010, the Hawkeyes entered the game ranked No. 15, but were one dropped Demarlo Belcher reception away from a loss.  It was the canary in the coal mine: Iowa imploded from there, losing the next three games before salvaging a win in its bowl trip.  And a three-point road loss to the Hoosiers in 2012 presaged a long slide to the bottom of the conference.

It's difficult to look at a game like this and not go back to the quarterback situation, a situation that has felt like the most important thing in the world for nearly a month.  And yes, Iowa will apparently unveil a two-quarterback system on Saturday (I say 'apparently 'because this had also been promised back in August and largely undelivered), and we may be one step closer to sorting the whole thing out.  But Iowa's schedule, with November games against Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota looming, makes this game more important than a simple test tube for quarterback experimentation.  A loss, or even a close win, could presage calamity.  It has in the past, after all.

Iowa entered its first of two October off weeks with a lot more to figure out than just quarterback.  Could the Hawkeyes find something to solve the lethargic performance of its interior line?  Could Iowa's most athletic wide receivers do something in practice to get the attention of the coaches long enough to actually make them a focal point of the offense?  Could Greg Davis and Kirk Ferentz engage in any self-diagnosis long enough to solve fairly obvious problems with the offense?  Could the defensive line find a rotation that would allow for continued fourth-quarter dominance, and could Iowa's linebackers get healthy and experienced enough to take advantage if it did?  Could we please pick a punter?

Iowa's arguably played the worst schedule of any one-loss team in the country (if you ask Blogpoll, it's the worst), and so, despite the fact that we are five games into a twelve-game campaign, we don't yet have a handle on where this entire season is going.  If nothing is solved, it could collapse.  If things are fixed, it could be quite successful.  But we won't know much about those things until Saturday, when Indiana could again predict where we go next.