Preview, Prediction: Indiana Next Road Test for Hawkeyes
IOWA CITY, Iowa – For most of Kirk Ferentz’s 20 years as Iowa’s head coach, Indiana featured a high-scoring offense and a flimsy defense. Tom Allen aimed to change the latter when he took over the Hoosiers two years ago.
While it won’t make anyone forget the 1985 Chicago Bears, the Indiana defense is much improved. It sits around the middle of the Big Ten in many of the main statistical areas and those numbers are a bit skewed following last week’s game against high-powered Ohio State.
In that game, the Hoosiers held OSU to 154 rushing yards on 48 attempts, which works out to 3.2 a carry. The Buckeyes were averaging nearly five yards a try entering the contest.
Allen is a head coach with a background in teaching defense. Allowing 25.8 points per game might not seem like anything special, but it’s marked improvement over ’14 when IU gave up 32.8, second worst in the Big Ten.
“I think that was kind of their achilles heel, if they had one, last time we were there. They could move the ball on anybody, and they’re still doing that, but they had a hard time, I think, just kind of settling in what they wanted to do defensively,” Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes will be attempting to solve IU on Saturday in Bloomington (11 a.m. CT, ESPN2). Iowa is 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Indiana stands at 4-2 and 1-2.
The Hoosiers play with a 4-3 front supported by talented defensive backs. They’re leading the Big Ten with 13 takeaways.
“They have an identity now. They play aggressively. The guys up front really play hard and play with good technique and leverage, and the rest of those guys are really flying to the football,” Ferentz said.
“So it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge for us. It’s a little bit unique for us, so communication is going to be a little bit critical. It’s going to be a process right now that’s going to be critical Saturday.”
Indiana’s offense isn’t as potent as it was under previous head coach Kevin Wilson, but it better complements the defense. It’s led by sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who challenges defenses with his arm and legs.
Ramsey has thrown for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns against five interceptions through six games. He’s rushed for 180 yards and a pair of scores. He’s done a good job extending plays with his scrambling ability.
“He’s a guy who can get out of the pocket, create plays with his legs. So, it’s going to be on us to try to contain him from the run game and his scrambling as well,” Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse said.
Ramsey likes to spread the ball around to a talented group of receivers. J-Shun Harris leads the way with 22 catches for 206 yards and a score. Nick Westbrook has caught 20 balls for 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Donavan Hale boasts a team-best four TD catches. Eight different receivers have at least 10 receptions.
The passing game is supported by freshman running back Stevie Scott. He has 528 ground yards (4.9 per carry) and four touchdowns.
“They have some big, fast receivers and they have a really fast running back (Reese Taylor). They use him for jet sweeps. The quarterback is tough. He can deliver the ball on posts, go routes, slants. He’s a tough kid and it’s an overall tough team,” Iowa safety Amani Hooker said.
The Hawkeye defense is short-handed. Starting linebackers Nick Niemann and Jack Hockaday are sidelined with injuries. Amani Jones, who replaced Hockaday in the middle last week, will miss the first half of this game after being called for targeting against Minnesota.
True freshmen cornerbacks Julius Brents and Riley Moss are expected to make their second career starts. On the offensive side, starting tight end Noah Fant and No. 1 running back Ivory Kelly-Martin are questionable with undisclosed injuries.
Despite all the moving parts, Allen is preparing for a stiff challenge.
“They’re a very well-coached football team. Very big, physical, everything you’d expect from an Iowa football team. Great defense, especially in the box. Gives us long, big, strong, and they really are very stingy, don’t give up a lot of plays,” he said.
“They really expanded their passing game. (Nate) Stanley is a great quarterback, big, physical, 6’4, 245 pound guy, physical backs, big offensive line. Best tight end corps we’ve gone against.”
Indiana is emphasizing the pass rush, trying to make quarterbacks uncomfortable. That’s the goal against Stanley this week.
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“That’s the key, I don’t care what quarterback it is or how talented he is, because he’s a great quarterback, but pressure affects everybody. Getting somebody in their face and making them move around,” Allen said.
“It’s not just it’s even hits. It’s movement, it’s not letting him get his feet set, and being able to have a direct line of sight to his receivers. Getting people in the windows, getting people in his face, move him, tackle him, hit him.”
TV ANNOUNCERS: Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht and Rocky Boiman on ESPN2.
SERIES: Iowa holds a 44-28-4 advantage in the series that began with a 13-6 Iowa victory in
1912. Iowa has won six of the last seven meetings. The Hawkeyes are 20-18-1 all-time against the Hoosiers in Bloomington. Iowa won, 35-27, the last time it visited Bloomington in ’15.
BETTING LINES: Iowa opened as a 6-point favorite on Sunday, a number that dropped to 5 as of Tuesday at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas. The total was set at 53.5.
-Indiana is 3-12-1 Against The Spread in its last 16 conference games.
-Hoosiers are 0-5-1 ATS in their last 6 games as a home underdog.
-Iowa is 6-0 ATS in its last 6 games as a favorite.
-Hawkeyes are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
INDIANA PLAYERS TO WATCH
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–Peyton Ramsey, QB – The redshirt sophomore has done a nice job engineering the Hoosiers’ attack. He keeps plays alive with his legs and spreads the ball around when he unleashes it. The Hawkeyes need to keep him contained or they could be looking at some big plays for IU.
–Stevie Scott, RB – A freshman from Syracuse, Scott is averaging almost five yards per carry. At 6-foot-2, 236 pounds, he’s a load to bring down. Iowa must rally to the ball when he gets it and wrap up. He’s effective at breaking tackles.
–Jonathan Crawford, S – The senior from former Hawkeye Marcus Paschal’s high school is one of the more underrated defenders in the conference. He makes plays all over the field. He can run with receivers and crash down to stop the run. He’s started in all 44 of his games at IU.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Indiana: The Hoosiers need to generate pressure on Stanley and make him uncomfortable. When he has time to throw, he’s getting better at picking teams apart.
Iowa: Conversely, the Hawkeyes must contain Ramsey. When he’s moving around free, he looks like Trace McSorley light.
-Indiana leads the Big Ten and shares seventh nationally with 13 takeaways. The Hoosiers share first in the conference and 13th in the country with six fumble recoveries and share third in the league and 20th in the nation with seven interceptions.
-Indiana has 11 10-plus play scoring drives (7 TDs, 4 FGs) this year, which shares fifth nationally.
-Indiana has played 38 underclassmen in 2018, tied for the eighth-most in the country. IU is the 19th youngest team in the country and the fourth youngest in the Big Ten. Seventy-seven of the 116 (66.4 percent) Hoosiers are underclassmen (55 freshmen – 31 true, 22 sophomores).
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-Hoosiers special teams coordinator William Inge played defensive end (1993-96) and began his coaching career with the Hawkeyes. Inge served as a co-captain his senior season and collected honorable mention All-Big Ten and Academic All-Big Ten honors. He finished his career with 173 tackles, 24 sacks and 37 tackles for loss.
-Haydon Whitehead is in his second season as Indiana’s primary punter. He is a member of the Ray Guy Award Watch List for the second straight year
-Iowa is 10-0 since the start of the 2017 season when scoring 20 points or more.
-Iowa allows 2.7 yards per carry, sixth in the country, and is one of two defenses in the country to have allowed only two rushing touchdowns (Southern Mississippi).
-The Hawkeyes rank second in the Big Ten in total defense (272.4), rushing defense (84.4), and passing defense (188.0). The Hawkeyes rank third in scoring defense (16.6). The Hawkeyes are the only Big Ten school to rank in the top two in all three categories.
-Iowa QB Nate Stanley has nine touchdown passes this season, raising his career total to 35. Stanley is Ɵ ed for eighth all-time in program history with James Vandenberg. He is two shy of tying Chuck Hartlieb for seventh all-Ɵ me.
-Iowa has used four different starting LB combinations. SS Amani Hooker made his first career start at LB Week 5 at Minnesota. Hooker is the sixth Hawkeye to start at the LB position this season. LB Barrinton Wade is expected to make his first career start at Indiana.
Indiana – Dick Enberg
Iowa – John Bucksbaum
HOWE I SEE IT: This is a really dangerous game for Iowa, which I expected in the preseason when I picked the Hoosiers to win. Allen is a good coach and he’ll have his guys ready for this one, which would be a big win in his rebuild.
IU gave Ohio State all it could handle last week before fading. It also won by only a touchdown at lowly Rutgers.
This is one of the more offensively and defensively balanced Hoosier teams that Iowa has faced in the last few decades. It features playmakers on both side of the ball.
The Hawkeyes have to play cleaner than they have the last few outings or Indiana will make them pay. It’s certainly been a focus for them.
I would expect this to be a tight game throughout. It’s going to come down to making plays in the fourth quarter.
Iowa made them against Iowa State but did not against Wisconsin.
I think the Hawkeyes make enough of them to claim a close victory here.
PREDICTION: IOWA 27, Indiana 24
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