The Iowa Hawkeyes will be attempting to block out the chatter of their No. 9 standing in last Tuesday's release of the season's first College Football Playoff rankings, while the Indiana Hoosiers will be going after their first "signature win" in a season that's seen them come close in prior attempts, only to walk away empty-handed.
While the Hawkeyes are in the West Division driver's seat on the road to the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 5 — and have shown no indication of taking their foot off the gas — the Hoosiers desperately need a big win to stay above .500 and keep their fledgling bowl hopes alive.
Iowa holds a 43-28-4 advantage in this series, which began in 1912, including victories in 5 of the last 6 meetings.
Iowa at Indiana
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Iowa -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Indiana's high-powered offense
The Hoosiers enter this contest fresh off a bye-week and averaging 467.6 yards total offense, including 180.6 rushing and 287.0 in the air, on the season. When they're clicking on all cylinders, they can play with the best and are capable of putting points on the board fast. Three weeks ago they showed exactly that in an eventual 52-55 loss to Rutgers. They'll need to bring their A-game this week, however, as Iowa has allowed just one rushing touchdown all year and sports the seventh best overall defense in the nation while allowing just 15.3 points per game.
2. Iowa's ability to react quickly on defense
While the B1G has traditionally been a defense-dominated league, the Hoosiers will continue to play within their high-tempo offense behind playmaker QB Nate Sudfield against the Hawkeyes, as they have all season. It's a style only Maryland showed the Iowa defense so far this season, and which resulted in moments of explosiveness from the Terps, most notably in the fourth quarter. Given the difficulty associated with replicating the Hoosiers' offensive pace in practice drills, the Hawkeye defense will be forced to react and make adjustments in a real-world environment. Don't be surprised to see the Hoosiers test that ability early and often and look for some new looks from the Hoosiers as part of their scheme.
3. C.J. Beathard and the “big play”
By now, every Hawkeye fan in the country knows that Beathard has not been at 100 percent since before Iowa's game at Northwestern. The end result has been an increased emphasis on the Iowa QB playing from inside the pocket, where he's looked to get rid of the ball much faster. That means the “big play” ability of the Hawkeyes has been limited to yards after the catch or the long rushing play. Iowa has still managed to break out of the pack more often than most other B1G teams, coming into this game at third in the conference on plays of 40-plus yards. With Indiana's often porous defense, look for the Hawkeyes to continue to attempt to exploit those long-play capabilities with a three-deep RB system (minus the injured Jordan Canzeri) that the Hawkeyes have now dubbed "the four deadly horsemen" coupled with up to seven different receivers from which Beathard can choose.
The Hawkeyes must perform better against the Hoosiers' own big play capabilities than they did in the last meeting of these teams. In that 2014 game, Iowa gave up 300 yards rushing in an eventual 45-29 victory, due largely to the Hoosiers' big plays on the ground. Indiana has shown the same sort of potentially explosive efforts at times in 2015. The Hawkeyes will need to be at their absolute best mentally this time out as well. If not it could be another long day spent chasing down the men in red and white.
Prediction: Iowa 44, Indiana 20
— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network and a native Iowan currently based in Southern California. Boleyn attended both the University of Iowa and UCLA, and is a former contributing writer for The Daily Iowan and a die-hard Hawkeye. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.