One of the key factors in Iowa's 6-0 start has undoubtedly been a friendly schedule in terms of travel. The Hawkeyes have left Iowa City just twice -- and the state of Iowa just once, making the short trip to Madison two weeks ago where they pulled the upset against Wisconsin. Iowa will have to leave the friendly confines of Iowa again this week as they head to Evanston for a top-of-the-division clash with Northwestern.
Road trips to Evanston haven't been friendly for Iowa since Kirk Ferentz took over. The Hawkeyes are just 2-4 in those games, posting wins in 2001 and 2007 and losing in 1999, 2005, 2010, and 2012. The 2005 and 2010 losses are two of the more scarring losses in the last decade; both featured late Northwestern comebacks that forced Iowa to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In truth, the worm turned against Northwestern before Ferentz arrived -- Iowa won 21 in a row over Northwestern from 1974 to 1994, but Gary Barnett's turnaround led to Northwestern winning three in a row in the series (and three of four overall before Ferentz arrived).
Home or away, Northwestern has been one of the pre-eminent spoilers of Iowa's hopes and dreams over the last decade. In 2006, Iowa's meltdown against Northwestern prompted the infamous "fat cats" comments from Ferentz and led to a complete collapse by Iowa down the stretch. In 2009, the WOOTENOCALYPSE ended Iowa's dream season. In 2010, a loss to Northwestern again presaged a total collapse down the stretch.
Northwestern won't lack for motivation in this game, either. As if the chance to dish up a fresh slice of heartache for Iowa, a team they hold particular dislike for, wasn't enough, it's Homecoming. It's also the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Northwestern team that went to the Rose Bowl. And if the Northwestern players need more recent motivation, their embarrassing 38-0 loss to Michigan -- and their 48-7 loss in Iowa City a year ago -- should provide plenty of fodder.
Iowa enters the game desperately trying to get to the bye week on the other side of this game with both their roster and their record unscathed. The list of key injuries for Iowa going into this game is massive -- Drew Ott, Boone Myers, Ike Boettger, Jake Duzey, Tevaun Smith, LeShun Daniels, Jr. And C.J. Beathard doesn't seem like he'll be anywhere close to 100%, either. But it doesn't have to be pretty -- it just needs to be a W. If the Iowa defense and special teams are up to the task -- and if the offense can do just enough (and avoid crippling mistakes) -- then Iowa just might be able to keep this crazy undefeated season going. We'll find out soon.
WHO: Northwestern Wildcats (5-1, 1-1)
WHEN: 11:00 AM Central; Saturday, October 17, 2015
Kinnick Stadium Ryan Field; Evanston, IL
TV: ABC or ESPN2 (see coverage map below)
ONLINE: via WatchESPN(TV) and Tunein Radio (audio-only)
MOBILE: via WatchESPN (iOS and Android)
RADIO: via Hawkeye Radio Network, KRUI (89.7 FM), Sirius channel 135, XM channel 195
TV COMMENTATORS: Dave Pasch and Brian Griese
ODDS: Iowa -1.5
TV COVERAGE MAP FOR IOWA-NORTHWESTERN