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Saturday, May 18
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Intangibles separate IU from Big Ten elite

The buses carrying Hawkeyes and Hoosiers couldn’t have been more different last Saturday.

The Hoosiers were silent, angry and heartbroken following their one-point loss to Northwestern; the Hawkeyes were thrilled and confident as they left Michigan State with a two-point victory.

Those three combined points tell the story of two teams going down similar, yet vastly different, paths this season.

The Hoosiers, losers of four out of their last five games, sit with a mediocre 4-4 record, and making a bowl game is a steep hill to climb. Iowa, meanwhile, has the nation’s second-best winning streak at 12 games and is a perfect 8-0.

As black and white as it appears, shades of gray dominate a comparison of the two teams.

Despite the four-game lead Iowa has on IU, the teams are almost statistical reflections of one another. Other than Iowa’s daunting defensive statistics, the teams would appear to be on equal footing.

Yet the Hawkeyes are moving toward the National Championship, and the Hoosiers are only two losses away from staying home in December.

The difference between the two cannot be analyzed statistically, and it can’t be found on game film. Iowa, despite their many flaws, wins games they should lose as the Hoosiers do the exact opposite.

The Hawkeyes have what every championship contender wants, but what that is remains nameless. They have something pundits can only deem as “it,” the undeniable tendency to always, regardless of what happens, win.

And the Hoosiers, with all their talent and desire to be great, don’t have that “it” factor. Last Saturday, the evidence was palpable.

The Hoosiers, having already seen a 25-point lead dwindle to two, couldn’t close the game. The defense allowed Northwestern to drive deep into its territory, setting up for a chip-shot field goal to steal the victory.

Now, flash back to Week 1 in Iowa City, Iowa.

Northern Iowa was a mere kick away from upsetting the Hawkeyes in Kinnick Stadium. Iowa blocked the game-winning attempt and, thanks to the ball not crossing the line of scrimmage, blocked a second kick.

On Saturday, IU couldn’t block Northwestern’s only chance, and freshman kicker Nick Freeland didn’t have a miracle in him as his 59-yard field goal fell short, handing the Hoosiers their fourth loss.

Just a few hours later, Iowa was in a close grapple at Michigan State, fighting for its BCS life. The Spartans looked poised for the upset with a 30-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass with under two minutes remaining.

But the Hawkeyes showed why they are undefeated. As time expired, Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi hit Marvin McNutt from seven yards out to continue their perfect season.

The heart-attack Hawkeyes approach has been a common theme in 2009. Four of their wins – coincidentally, the number separating themselves and IU – have been by three points or less. In the same situation, the Hoosiers are 0-2.

The disparity has Iowa at No. 4 in the BCS standings and IU at 10th in the Big Ten. It has Hawkeye fans forming treasured memories and Hoosier fans trying to forget.

And, if the game comes down to one play Saturday, it will make the bus trip to Bloomington another long one.

Prediction:

IU faces the best team they have had to face all year when they travel to Iowa City, Iowa, this weekend. The Hawkeyes’ defense has been nearly impenetrable this season, and the Hoosiers’ offense has been unpredictable at best.

Iowa will be without a starting guard and their starting running back, but the Hawkeyes have not won with their offense all year. The Hoosiers will need to keep Iowa at single digits throughout much of the game to have a chance, but the holes in the pass defense should allow more than one big play.

IU 9 – Iowa 20

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