When the 2018 Indiana schedule was released, you just knew this game would have special meaning. Homecoming, and an Iowa program that Indiana needs to start winning against to get where it wants to go.
With the passing of IU legend George Taliaferro this week, the game takes on an even bigger meaning, and the Hoosiers will be replacing their traditional helmet decals with his No. 44 in honor of the college football hall of famer and trailblazing pioneer.
The Hawkeyes are right where they always are — around the top 25, as the occupy the next tier beneath the titans of the Big Ten. As we described earlier in the week — Iowa sits where Indiana needs to be — and there is only one way to knock them off that perch.
Games like these make or break seasons, the trajectory of programs, and impact recruiting battles — as Indiana and Iowa class of 2019 four star target David Bell (WR-Indianapolis) will be there. Simply put, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
IOWA (4-1, 1-1) at INDIANA (4-2, 1-2)
- Kickoff: Noon Eastern Time
- Location: Memorial Stadium (52,656), Bloomington, Indiana
- Television: ESPN2
- Series: Iowa leads the all-time series 44-28-4. The teams have not played since a 35-27 Iowa win in Bloomington in 2015. IU’s last win in the series was in 2012, 24-21 in Bloomington.
- Odds: Iowa is a 5.5 point favorite.
- Weather at kickoff: 47 degrees, mostly sunny, winds at 3 mph, 0% chance of rain
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is 147-98 (.600) in his 20th season at Iowa. He is the school’s all-time winningest coach and sits fifth in Big Ten history.
TALE OF THE TAPE
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
This is the game for the IU offensive line to show what it is made of. Earlier in the week, IU head coach Tom Allen compared Iowa’s front seven to Michigan State. The Hoosiers cannot have a repeat of the quarterback pressure that the Spartans got a few weeks ago.
When it comes to Iowa’s pass rush, at the top of the Hoosier priority list will be containing defensive end Anthony Nelson (#98). All he did last week against Minnesota was get three sacks and earn Big Ten defensive player of the week.
Iowa’s defense has been solid across the board, but especially against the run. The Hawkeyes rank fourth nationally in total defense and fifth in rushing defense.
Indiana will likely look to air it out on Saturday. Iowa has had a deluge of injuries at linebacker, and while they are both expected to return, the two Hawkeye starting cornerbacks are coming off injuries. Moreover, the strength of this Indiana football team is in its receiving corp. Indiana will likely look to spread out Iowa, and take them out of their base 4-3 defense which is their comfort zone.
With Iowa missing multiple starting linebackers, look for the Hoosier tight ends and running backs to be used in the passing game extensively.
WHEN IOWA HAS THE FOOTBALL
Want an instant replay of Dwayne Haskins performance last week against IU? No? Quarterback pressure is going to be key — and Iowa hasn’t been allowing it. The Hawkeyes have allowed just five sacks on the season — the fewest in the Big Ten. If Indiana can’t get to Iowa QB Nate Stanley, it could be a long afternoon.
A big game time decision story line will be the health of Hawkeye tight end Noah Fant. The 6-foot-4, 241 pound tight end is rumored to be in concussion protocol. He has 17 career touchdowns, the most for a tight end in Iowa history, and he leads the team in receiving yards. Iowa has a more than capable second option at the position with T.J. Hockenson, who scored twice last week.
There are also questions as to whether starting Iowa running back Ivory Kelly-Martin will play. Similar to the tight end position, the Hawkeyes have another capable option there with Toren Young, who actually leads the team in rushing with 286 yards, and a 5.3 average.
Nothing about the Iowa offense particularly stands out, other than that they are balanced and thus can beat you in multiple ways. Stanley has been playing well of late but can be turnover prone — again emphasizing the importance of IU getting pressure.
The Hoosiers showed last week what can happen when they get a hit on the quarterback, with two interceptions resulting. Unfortunately they also showed what can happen when a good quarterback has a clean pocket.
While Stanley doesn’t have the weapons that OSU had, he’s good enough to make the Hoosiers pay if he has time. IU QB pressure or lack thereof could be the story of the game. Look for the Hoosiers to leave their corners on an island and bring the house.
This game was already tough to predict. With the game time decisions for key players like Fant, Kelly-Martin, Whop Philyor, Luke Timian and others, it becomes even harder. There were several other IU injuries during that OSU game that we know nothing about, beyond Allen indicating that they were not season ending.
We are going against our better judgment here, but we think somehow, some way the Hoosiers find some magic in those 44’s on their helmets and pull off the upset win for Taliaferro.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier