Former NBA superstar Scottie Pippen has been quoted as saying, "Once you get a taste of success, it's a hard thing to turn down." Turning down success may be difficult, but maintaining success can be an altogether different set of challenges.
In 2020, Indiana had its most successful season in years, finishing 6-2 with a close 26-20 loss to Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl. Indiana defeated Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan for the first time in school history and only lost by seven points at Ohio State. With 17 starters returning, the Hoosiers are optimistic that they can remain a threat to win the Big Ten East in 2021.
Iowa, meanwhile, has grown accustomed to success under the direction of long-time head coach Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz has compiled a 168-106 record as he begins his 23rd year in Iowa City and was able to lead the Hawkeyes to a 6-2 record in the 2020 abbreviated season. Iowa is a popular pick to win the Big Ten West in 2021.
Iowa holds a commanding 45-28-4 lead in the series over Indiana. This game will mark the first time that the two teams have met since 2018, which resulted in a 42-16 Iowa victory.
Indiana at Iowa
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Iowa -3.5
When Indiana Has the Ball
The success of Indiana's offense falls largely upon the health of returning starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Penix is coming off a torn ACL that precluded him from spring practice. Supporting him is a strong receiving corps that features wide receivers Ty Fryfogle and Miles Marshall, as well as tight end Peyton Hendershot.
The challenge for Iowa defensively this game will be along their defensive line, as the Hawkeyes lost three starters from their 2020 team. However, the lone returner, defensive end Zach VanValkenburg, was a second-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches and the media after a season that included 30 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. VanValkenburg will need to create pressure on Penix, or Penix may be able to hit Fryfogle, Marshall, and Hendershot for big gains.
When Iowa Has the Ball
Quarterback Spencer Petras returns, providing stability, if not a great deal of sizzle, to the position. Center Tyler Linderbaum is the lone returning starter along the offensive line and is widely considered to be among the nation's best at his position. The team will rely upon Linderbaum to open up holes for tailback Tyler Goodson. Goodson will be the focal point of the Iowa offense after averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 7 touchdowns in 2020.
New Indiana defensive coordinator Charlton Warren will continue to deploy the 4-2-5 defensive front that Tom Allen prefers. Indiana led the Big Ten in 2020 with 25 sacks and could be disruptive to an unsettled Iowa offensive line. One of Indiana's best players is linebacker Micah McFadden, who the team will rely upon to slow down the Iowa running game.
Indiana believes that it is becoming one of the better teams in the Big Ten and around the country. Going into Kinnick Stadium and winning the season opener will help quiet the skeptics. On the other hand, Iowa prides itself on a physical style of play that can keep the Hawkeyes in close games while wearing down the opposition. Indiana will make it interesting, but Iowa will have just enough to pull out a close one in the 2021 season opener.
Prediction: Iowa 24, Indiana 21
Podcast: Week 0 Recap