After last week’s 49-26 loss at No. 3 Ohio State, IU will look to get back on track as the Hoosiers get set to welcome the Iowa Hawkeyes to Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Iowa is 4-1 and coming off a 48-31 win against Big Ten West division foe Minnesota.
Here are three things you need to know about IU’s homecoming game opponent.
1. Nate Stanley is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the Big Ten.
At a school like Iowa, a program usually known for its powerful rushing attack, it’s easy for the quarterback to fade into the background. But after a standout 2017 season, that’s not the case for Nate Stanley. Last year, Stanley threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns with just six interceptions. His breakout performance came in a 55-24 win against Ohio State last season in which Stanley was immaculate, throwing for 226 yards and five touchdowns.
This year, Stanley has taken on a bigger role within the Hawkeye offense. So far, he’s thrown for over 1,100 yards with nine touchdown passes and four interceptions. After getting off to a somewhat rocky start, Stanley has hit his stride over the last few weeks and played his best game of the season last week, throwing for 314 yards and four touchdowns against Minnesota.
Stanley is Iowa’s most important offensive player, and the IU secondary will need to step up against one of the better quarterbacks in the conference.
2. The Iowa running game is as effective as ever.
As good as Nate Stanley has been, it’s not a real Iowa football team without a strong ground game. After the graduation of Akrum Wadley, the Hawkeyes have looked to a trio of sophomores to fill the void. Ivory Kelly-Martin, Toren Young and Mekhi Sargent have all seen plenty of carries so far this season, and the group has combined for 682 yards and seven touchdowns through five games.
After returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for two weeks, Kelly-Martin has received the majority of touches in Iowa’s last three games.
He’s the only Hawkeye running back that appeared in all 13 games last season, and it appears he’ll be the number one option in the backfield Saturday. Young, who stepped into the starting role in his absence, should still see time as his 5.3 yards per carry has proved he can be a reliable option.
3. Iowa’s defense has struggled in conference play.
After a fantastic start to the season, the Iowa defense has had some problems with Big Ten opposition. First, the Hawkeyes were decimated by Wisconsin’s powerful running game in a 28-17 loss, giving up 210 yards to Heisman contender Jonathan Taylor. Then, Iowa gave up 31 points in a road win against Minnesota despite recording three interceptions.
With IU coming into this game after another disappointing performance on the ground, the Hoosiers could look to take advantage of a Hawkeye defense that has struggled over the past few weeks.
Despite the problems Iowa has had stopping the run, the Hawkeyes are pretty formidable against the pass. Iowa boasts two good pass rushers in junior Anthony Nelson and sophomore A.J. Epenesa, who lead the Hawkeyes with five and four sacks, respectively.
Along with its fearsome pass rush, Iowa’s secondary is coming off its best game of the season after picking off Minnesota quarterback Zack Annexstad three times last week. After avoiding turnovers last week against Ohio State, IU will need more of the same from Peyton Ramsey if the Hoosiers want to break their homecoming losing streak.
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