It isn’t overstating it to call Saturday’s noon kickoff against Iowa the game of the year for Indiana. Either the Hoosiers figure out a way to win a game that they are expected to lose, or the cycle of fast starts followed by a slow spiral into the pit of misery continues.
Will the Hoosiers be fighting, scratching and clawing for six wins by the end of the season, or is an eight win season a real possibility? For help with what to expect, we go behind enemy lines to see what the Iowa media is saying about the big game.
A HOOSIER WITH A HAWKEYE PAST
Can he be trusted? Of course he can. He might even have some insights into the Iowa program that has seen just two coaches over the last 40 years.
He is IU Special Teams Coordinator William Inge. You may remember him as Bill Ennis-Inge. The Gazette described his Iowa career like this:
“As Bill Ennis-Inge, he was an outside linebacker for the Hawkeyes from 1993 to ’96. A captain on the 1996 team, Inge recorded 173 career tackles, 24 sacks and 37 tackles for loss. The Hawkeyes were 17-7 his final two seasons, collecting Sun and Alamo bowl victories.”
Inge served as a team co-captain his senior season at Iowa, where he collected honorable mention All-Big Ten and Academic All-Big Ten accolades. Inge posted 173 tackles, 24 sacks and 37 tackles for a loss.
It’s mixed news for Iowa as they appear set to be getting starters back in their secondary, while the linebacker group is heavily depleted.
There are also questions on the offensive side of the ball for Iowa, where two key starters may be in concussion protocol. Hawkeye Insider described the status of starting running back Ivory Kelly-Martin and tight end Noah Fant:
The big question is if Ivory Kelly-Martin and tight end Noah Fant are going to be available on Saturday. Ferentz mentioned that they are both ‘hurt’ and wouldn’t clarify if they were in concussion protocol or not.
“Yeah, they’re injured. They both came out of the game,” Ferentz said on Tuesday. “I think the whole world saw that. Right now we’ll see where it goes. I think we’ll probably know more by Friday.”
Without further media availability, the reality is that we won’t know more until kickoff.
WILL THEY RUN OR PASS?
Is Iowa a running team or a passing team? They are often good because they have the ability to do both, and that seems to be the case this season.
If you saw Iowa’s rushing stat line against Minnesota last week (106 yards on 40 carries, none longer than 15 yards) as an opportunity, be careful. You may have seen fool’s gold.
Minnesota was stacking the box last week, and this Iowa offense has shown the ability to adapt to what the defense gives them. Hawk Central had this quote from quarterback Nate Stanley:
“It depends on the team that we’re playing and the game plan that we have in place,” Stanley said, not wanting to give away too much. “Whatever coach Brian (Ferentz) feels is the best thing to do, we’re going to go out there and do it to the best of our abilities.
“There’s things we try to take advantage of each week.”
Stanley is the key here, and he has been solid in his past three games, completing 60 of 90 passes for 879 yards and eight touchdowns.
NOT YOUR FATHER’S HAWKEYE DEFENSE?
When folks in Iowa think of the Hawkeye defense under head coach Kirk Ferentz, they think base 4-3 without a lot of variety during the game. A combination of more flexible personnel for Iowa and opponents that look to spread things out has the Hawkeyes mixing it up. The Gazette described it this way.
“The Hawkeyes just don’t prefer to go away from their base very often. It’s four linemen, three linebackers, two cornerbacks, two safeties, and that’s it.
But Iowa’s reputation of inflexibility took a hit last Saturday against Minnesota, as it played a lot of nickel and some dime defense. You’d have to believe it will do the same Saturday versus Indiana.”
With Indiana likely playing to its strengths (wide receiver) on Saturday, the Hoosiers seem likely to test Iowa’s new-found comfort playing out of its base defense.
Want to believe that IU can win a game like this and advance to an eight win season? They did it thirty years ago against Iowa.
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