No. 19 Iowa went from a potential College Football Playoff contender to perilously close to falling out of the Big Ten West Division title in a matter of two weeks.
And the Hawkeyes might not find their tonic in Evanston. Iowa has struggled against Northwestern in recent seasons and visits Ryan Field on Saturday night trying to halt its losing streak at two games.
“There is no panic,” quarterback Spencer Petras said on the Hawkeyes’ official website. “The biggest thing is to push it forward, and push it through when you get knocked down like this.
“There is no quit on this team. These coaches, these players. We’re going to do what we can to review film and see what we can do to be better.”
Iowa (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) started 6-0, highlighted by a comeback 23-20 home win over then-No. 4 Penn State. That victory left the Hawkeyes and their dedicated fans thinking maybe they were the class of the Big Ten. However, since that victory, Iowa has been outscored 51-14 in losing back-to-back games to unranked Purdue and Wisconsin.
For starters, the offense hit a tailspin. The Hawkeyes averaged 33.2 points in its first five games of the season but just 12.3 over the past three.
Petras threw all nine of his touchdown passes and just two interceptions during the first six games of 2021, but he was picked off four times against Purdue and went 9-of-19 for 93 yards vs. Wisconsin.
Iowa has rushed for just 100 yards in the past two games. Running back Tyler Goodson totaled 307 yards and five touchdowns on the ground through the first three games, but 306 without a rushing score over the past five.
He was held to 43 yards on 13 carries, but did have a touchdown, in Iowa’s 21-20 home loss to Northwestern last season.
Iowa has lost four of its past five meetings with Northwestern, with the Hawkeyes’ victory coming in Evanston in 2019.
The Wildcats (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten), though, feature an offense that’s consistently struggled all season — more than Iowa’s. Northwestern ranks 13th in the 14-team Big Ten in points (19 per game) and 11th in scrimmage yards (339 pg).
Northwestern, the reigning Big Ten West champ, has 14 or points or less in three of its past four games while allowing an average of 34.3 points in going 1-3 during October. The Wildcats have 674 yards while being outscored 74-21 in losing to Michigan and Minnesota over the previous two contests.
“With this group, we just have to have a level of consistency and execution,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
While the Wildcats’ offense has had its issues this season, running back Evan Hull ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 750 rushing yards. He ran 15 times for 107 yards in Northwestern’s 41-14 home loss to Minnesota last weekend.
–Field Level Media