IOWA (4-4, 2-2) at INDIANA (3-5, 1-3)
IOWA RUSH OFFENSE VS. INDIANA RUSH DEFENSE
The Iowa running back watch falls to sophomore Damon Bullock this week. Sophomore Mark Weisman, Iowa’s leading rusher with 661 yards and eight TDs, was slowed by an ankle injury three weeks ago and left last week’s game in the first half with a groin injury. Bullock showed no ill effects from the concussion he suffered Sept. 15 and went for 107 yards on 22 carries. He could get 30 carries this week. Freshman Greg Garmon, who didn’t carry the ball last week, is the No. 2. Iowa’s re-made O-line was solid in the running game, with Nolan MacMillan and Jordan Walsh showing different skills but together making the left guard spot work. But the Hawkeyes did allow three sacks, with one coming against right tackle Brett Van Sloten, who had a tough assignment against Big Ten sacks leader Tyler Scott. DT Adam Replogle’s signature play last week came on a screen pass. He bit on the fake and rushed up field, but he identified screen and covered 8 yards fairly quickly with his 6-3, 294-pound frame and caught the Illinois running back short of a first down. The Hoosiers are last in the Big Ten in rush defense and is exploitable here, allowing 4.71 yards a carry. On the flip side, the Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 60. Replogle, DT Larry Black (6-2, 294) and linebacker David Cooper lead the way with seven each. Last week, the Hoosiers had a season-high 12 tackles for loss. Against Northwestern earlier this season, they had nine compared to the two Iowa mustered in its loss at NU last weekend. This game might come down to which DL wins one-on-one matchups and gets off blocks. Advantage: Iowa
IOWA PASS OFFENSE VS. INDIANA PASS DEFENSE
Safety Greg Heban is IU’s most active defender in the secondary. He leads IU with 61 tackles, including five for loss, has a team-high two interceptions and is all over the Hoosiers’ special teams. Coach Kevin Wilson calls him one of the team’s most valuable players. Last week against Illinois, the Hoosiers secondary was stuck in gear, keeping one foot in the secondary and the other pointed toward the line of scrimmage because of Fighting Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase and his dual-threat ability. Of course, Iowa doesn’t have that, so that conflict of assignment probably won’t be there today. The Hoosiers run a lot of zone coverage, pinning two safeties high on third downs. This can leave holes in the middle of the field, but Iowa tried just two passes intermediate to deep over the middle last week and misfired on both. It seems different things fall apart in the Iowa passing game every week. QB James Vandenberg was solid last week in Evanston. He did miss a few open receivers and does take a share of the blame for three delay of game penalties, but his receivers didn’t help him with five drops, including a pair from usually reliable WR Keenan Davis, who took a helmet to the back and went down for a while before returning to the game. He is a go today. Pass protection will be a thing this week. Replogle is a brutish pass rusher and will be frothing at matchups with three relatively new players (MacMillan, Walsh and Austin Blythe, who struggled in pass protection last week in his first game back from an ankle injury) rotating. Center James Ferentz will have to be aware in counting up rushers and where he slides to help. Advantage: Indiana
INDIANA RUSH OFFENSE VS. IOWA RUSH DEFENSE
RB Stephen Houston, who has a nine-game TD streak, is a back who could play for any team in the Big Ten. He’s 6-0, 225 with strength to run between the tackles and enough speed to pop outside. The question mark here is IU’s O-line, which starts two true freshmen — including left tackle Jason Spriggs (6-7, 268), who leads IU with 47 knockdown blocks — and two sophomores. The Hawkeyes have allowed 564 rushing yards the last two weeks. It might be easier to dismiss last week’s 349, the most against the Hawkeyes since 2000, to Northwestern QB Kain Colter and his quickness that exposed Iowa’s lack of athleticism on the edges, but Penn State was a power game that went for 215 yards. If Iowa isn’t better here, IU will be able to develop rhythm and build a base for whomever plays QB. The Hoosiers use wide splits to try to create space for Houston, who averages 4.96 yards on 105 carries. Iowa does better in slugfests than track meets and should have a chance to compete better here than it did at Northwestern, which laid bare the Hawkeyes’ shortcomings against a zone-read attack. IU does have that look, but it doesn’t have Colter. This really comes down to Iowa seeing the ball, which put it a step behind play after play last week. Again, shedding blocks in one-on-one matchups will mean a lot. Advantage: Even
INDIANA PASS OFFENSE VS. IOWA PASS DEFENSE
The Hoosiers have the top passing offense in the Big Ten, averaging 287.9 yards a game. Cameron Coffman, a junior-college transfer, still is listed as the starter despite being pulled after a first-quarter interception last week in favor of true freshman Nate Sudfeld. Coffman, son of former Packers TE Paul Coffman, has completed 63.4 percent, but he does struggle with the occasion pick, at least compared to Sudfeld, who has an impressive seven TD passes and no intereceptions. The 6-5, 218-pounder jumped in and guided the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten victory in 11 games. He’s more of a drop-back passer in this wildly paced offense that uses the pistol and shotgun and gets plays off often with 20 seconds left on the playclock. Coffman will hold the ball and is deft at extending plays and allowing his receivers, led by sophomores Cody Latimer (32 catches, 532 yards) and Shane Wynn (40 catches, 385 yards and six TDs), to find space and make plays. Sudfeld has a big enough arm to hit out routes to the opposite hash, which opens the field and keeps receivers in play. He also showed excellent touch last week on a 46-yarder to Latimer last week. Sudfeld also showed excellent poise on a second-quarter screen pass to Houston for a TD. Some ancillary numbers that show up well for the Hoosiers: Indiana has allowed just 11 sacks, one per every 30.2 passes and has committed just five turnovers (interceptions), which is tied for the third-lowest mark in the country. Iowa safety play has to be sharper this week. Tanner Miller and Tommy Donatell were slow reacting to the option last week. IU shows enough zone read to get them to bite. Advantage: Even
The Hoosiers jumped on a muffed punt last week to break serve in a 14-14 game at Illinois that they went on to win 31-17. Junior kicker Mitch Ewald is IU’s career leader in FG percentage, hitting 40 of 49 (81.6 percent). His 24 touchbacks this season are second in the Big Ten. Redshirt freshman Erich Toth is a replacement for injured Mitchell Voss at punter and averages 40.8 yards on 23 punts. IU has put emphasis on its return game. True freshman Tevin Coleman leads the Big Ten with 26.7 yards a kick return, and Wynn isn’t far behind with 23.3 yards on six returns. IU has blocked a punt this season. Iowa allowed a blocked punt last week. Fullback Brad Rogers is Iowa’s regular personal protector on punts. He was out last week with an injury, so linebacker James Morris moved there and sophomore safety John Lowdermilk took Morris’ spot. Northwestern shifted to an advantage on that side of the line of scrimmage and easily blocked the punt, setting up a TD on the next play. Iowa hasn’t been a good enough team to rebound from a disaster like that. Advantage: Indiana
1) Pace of play — The Iowa defense seemingly hasn’t caught its breath since the “NASCAR” offense that Penn State threw at it three weeks ago. After PSU, the Hawkeyes acknowledged pace of play got away from them. Against Northwestern, Iowa knew it was coming, but it wasn’t able to slow down NU nearly enough. This week, the Hoosiers get a play off every 21.0 seconds. They’ve time it. It’s in the game notes. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker has to feel uncomfortable when the offense is setting a pace like that. His defense hasn’t reacted well. 2) The Road — This will be Iowa’s third game away from Kinnick Stadium this season. The Hawkeyes are 2-1. A win would clinch their first regular-season winning record on the road since 2009 (4-1). Under Ferentz, Iowa is 3-2 at Memorial Stadium. 3) The young ones — IU coach Kevin Wilson played 16 true freshmen in 2011. That experience is starting to take hold. Overall last season, IU played 32 freshmen, the highest total in the country. The Hoosiers have played 11 true freshmen this season. Wilson, in his second season at Indiana, has turned over the roster while trying to change the culture. Advantage: Indiana
IOWA WILL WIN IF . . .
The offensive line can give Vandenberg a fighting chance in the pocket. This is up for grabs with Replogle and Black being veteran pass rushers lining up across two redshirt freshmen (Blythe, Walsh) and a junior (MacMillan) who’s knocking off the rust after missing a season and a half due to injury. IU racked up seven sacks on a mobile QB last week.
INDIANA WILL WIN IF . . .
The Hoosiers get another clean performance from Sudfeld, who showed a lot of poise in the second half while leading IU to a Big Ten road victory. IU has scored 24-plus points in nine straight games, a school record.
PREDICTION: Indiana 31, Iowa 27
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