Two quarterbacks who can sling it meet up in this underrated Big Ten tilt
The Iowa Hawkeyes and Indiana Hoosiers both come into Saturday's contest with four wins under their belts. For Iowa, this game represents another chance to stay alive in the Big Ten West hunt, as the Hawkeyes hope for Wisconsin to trip up a couple of times.
For the Hoosiers, this is a much-needed winnable game at home. They've lost two of their past three games after starting the season 3-0. Now, a bowl appearance is in jeopardy -- given the difficulty of Indiana's remaining schedule. These are the games the Hoosiers need to win if they want to be playing football in December.
Iowa at Indiana
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Indiana establish the run?
The Hoosiers had moderate success moving the ball on the ground last weekend against Ohio State. The pace of the game dictated that Indiana go to the air -- probably even more than the Hoosiers wanted to. Against Iowa, they'll be in a slugfest against a solid front seven that will pin its ears back and tear after quarterback Peyton Ramsey on every down if the Hoosiers can't keep them honest. The Hawkeyes logged five sacks last weekend in their 48-31 win over Minnesota.
2. Can the Hoosiers slow down Iowa's tight ends?
The Hawkeyes boast what is probably the best tight end duo in college football. Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson have combined for 37 catches, 483 yards and six touchdown receptions so far in 2018. The dynamic duo is the bread and butter of what Iowa does on offense in terms of moving the chains and being efficient in the red zone. Indiana head coach Tom Allen and his staff must figure out a way to limit the production and impact of the Iowa tight ends if they want to win this game.
Fant left last Saturday's game with a head injury suffered while running a jet sweep in the fourth quarter against Minnesota. On Monday, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz did not clarify whether Fant is in the concussion protocol, but he did say a decision on his playing status would be made by Friday. Fant's absence would be huge, but Hockenson will still be someone IU's defense will have to account for.
3. The quarterback battle
Iowa runs the ball just fine. Indiana needs to run the ball to win. That said, keep an eye on both of these quarterbacks on Saturday. Nate Stanley and Ramsey are signal-callers that will probably have a chance at suiting up on Sundays in the future. This game has the potential to turn into a shootout. If and when it does, the quarterback who plays most like a "Sunday guy" will likely be the one who leads his team to victory.
Iowa has soundly won every game it was supposed to win this season. If not for a meltdown against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes are undefeated and hovering on the outskirts of the College Football Playoff conversation. Indiana has shown that it likes to compete with the big boys, but aren't really a threat to beat a team that is better than they are at most positions. Some early offense and the home crowd should keep the Hoosiers in this one for a while, but Iowa's run game and the playmaking ability of its key targets (whether Noah Fant plays or not) will eventually be too much for Indiana to overcome.
Prediction: Iowa 37, Indiana 27
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.