Northwestern (3-4) at Iowa (5-2) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kinnick Stadium (70,585) -- Iowa City, Iowa. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Northwestern 2-3, Iowa 3-1. Away Record: Northwestern 1-1, Iowa 2-1. Neutral Record: Northwestern 0-0, Iowa 0-0. Conference Record: Northwestern 2-2, Iowa 2-1. Series Record: Iowa leads, 48-24-3.
GAME NOTES: Trying to end a two-game losing skid, the Northwestern Wildcats will hit the road to take on their Big Ten Conference rival Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium Saturday.
Northwestern defeated No. 17 Wisconsin early in October, but hasn't been able to pick up a win since, dropping consecutive games to Minnesota and Nebraska, respectively. The Wildcats are coming off a bye week and will be looking for revenge after an Iowa overtime win last year.
Iowa had a three-game win streak end in the team's last outing back on Oct. 18 against Maryland, 38-31. But the Hawkeyes are looking to get back in the win column after beating up Pittsburgh, Purdue and Indiana in consecutive contests dating back to September.
The Hawkeyes are doubling up the Wildcats in the all-time series, 48-24-3. The teams have split the last two meetings, with Iowa owning the most recent victory in 2013. But Northwestern has won four of the last six games overall.
Northwestern has been at times a pass reliant team, but the passing game wasn't working well against Nebraska in the team's most recent outing. Quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 18-of-39 pass attempts in the loss for 173 yards and an interception. The Wildcats are averaging 223.9 passing ypg behind Siemian's 57 percent completion rate and 1,496 yards.
Siemian has just as many rushing scores as he does through the air. The quarterback has thrown for four scores this season and has added another four touchdowns on the ground. The running game has been a work in progress for the Wildcats, who average 127.6 rushing ypg and have scored 11 touchdowns via the ground attack in seven contests. Justin Jackson leads the team with 630 yards and four scores, averaging 90 ypg and 4.7 ypc.
Siemian and the passing game has been relatively unproductive in seven games. Siemian's leading pass catcher is Dan Vitale, who has 282 yards and a touchdown on 26 catches this season. Not one receiver on Northwestern's roster has more than one touchdown grab for a team averaging 20.9 ppg.
The team's defense has helped it along to a 3-4 overall record with big wins over Wisconsin and Penn State. Against a dominant run team in Wisconsin, the Wildcats could hardly contain Melvin Gordon (259 yards, one touchdown) though, and in the loss to Nebraska, Ameer Abdullah ran wild also (146 rushing yards, four touchdowns). But the Hawkeyes don't possess an overly strong run game, so the team should be set.
Northwestern is averaging 20.4 ppg surrendered, although the defense has allowed 24 and 38 points, respectively, in the last two losses. Chi Chi Ariguzo leads the Wildcats with 62 tackles on the season, adding four tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries to his stat line. Lineman Dean Lowry has been a quarterback pest this season with five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, while Godwin Igwebuike (29 tackles) has a team-high three interceptions. The Wildcats will be busy against an Iowa offense averaging 27 ppg.
The 38-31 final score in Iowa's latest outing versus Maryland reflects a much closer outcome than was actually the case. The Hawkeyes trailed by a score of 38-21 when the team found the end zone with 2:58 to play, then a field goal with just over a minute remaining cut the Terrapins lead to a single score. The team's passing game was strong led by Jake Rudock, who had 317 yards and a pair of touchdowns with an interception in the loss.
The defeat snapped a three-game win streak for the Hawkeyes, who have some tough opponents looming on the schedule late in the season. The team would be wise to lean on Rudock the rest of the way offensively. The Hawkeyes, who average 27 ppg and 388.7 total ypg, have received strong play from Rudock thus far. The junior signal caller has passed for 1,325 yards and nine touchdowns against just three interceptions through six games played.
His offense is boasted by Mark Weisman, who has 427 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns this season for Iowa. The Hawkeyes average 146.3 rushing ypg through seven contests, led by Weisman's 61 ypg average. Weisman is the only Iowa player to have recorded over 100 carries to this point in the season.
Iowa's defense has been a standout one, allowing just 21.9 ppg and 343.1 total offensive ypg to opponents. Not only that, but the Hawkeyes have forced 10 opponent interceptions and two fumbles in their 5-2 season. The ability to force turnovers will come in handy later this season when they play teams like Wisconsin and Nebraska, but also against a Northwestern team that has turned the ball over eight times.
Quinton Alston may lead the team in tackles this season (55), but the real star of the defense has been lineman Drew Ott, who has registered 9.5 tackles for loss with a team-leading seven sacks and six quarterback hurries. The 6- foot-4 lineman has 34 total tackles through seven games played. Linebacker Reggie Spearman was suspended by the team indefinitely over the weekend, so he won't be on the field this weekend against the Wildcats.
Northwestern has some strong wins this season, but the team hasn't played well in either of their last two defeats, especially against Nebraska, which ran all over the team's defense. Iowa doesn't possess a very strong run game, but the team is solid at home this season, and game manager Rudock will be able to ease his way through the Northwestern secondary.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 28, Northwestern 20Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 1, 12 p.m. (ET)