Record: 4-1 (1-0)
RB – No. 45 Mark Weisman, 6-0, 240 lbs., r-Sr., Buffalo Grove, Ill., 78 rush attempts, 260 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 receptions, 13 yards
Weisman is a boulder who isn’t easily taken down. The former walk-on is the strongest running back in the conference, and he has no problem bowling over would-be tacklers. He also is lucky enough to run behind one of the best run blocking offensive lines in the country, and with a lack of acceleration, it benefits Weisman to have huge holes to run through.
WR – No. 11 Kevonte Martin-Manley, 6-0, 205 lbs., r-Sr., Pontiac, Mich., 26 receptions, 232 yards, 1 touchdown
Martin-Manley is the biggest playmaker on the Iowa offense. He has solid speed, but his hands and route running abilities are what separates him from the rest of the Hawkeye receivers. His biggest impact is on third downs, where he is targeted far more often than any other Iowa receiver. While he’s only found the end zone one time this season, it came on a beautiful catch along the sideline where he was forced to twist his body, make the catch and slide a foot along the turf to earn six points.
LT – No. 68 Brandon Scherff, 6-5, 320, r-Sr., Denison, Iowa
Most fans don’t pay close attention to offensive linemen, and if you never have before this would be a good one to start. Scherff is arguably the best offensive lineman in college football, and some think he could be selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft this spring. His strength is in run blocking, using his 320-pound frame to drive defenders back. He also displays tremendous agility and footwork for his size. He’s a fun player to watch, keep an eye out for him on the left side.
MLB – No. 52 Quinton Alston, 6-1, 232 lbs., Sr., Sicklerville, N.J., 36 tackles, 21 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 deflected pass, 1 quarterback hurry
Alston is the team captain of the Iowa defense, even though it’s his first year as a starter. Alston is tied for the team lead in tackles, already having recorded more this season than the previous three years combined. He is best known for his leadership skills, and the mental part of his game is way beyond what you’d expect out of a first year starter. Alston has a knack for finding the football, and he studies a lot of film to stay a step ahead of offenses.
SS – No. 37 John Lowdermilk, 6-2, 210, Sr., Carrollton, Ohio, 36 tackles, 21 solo, 1.5 tackles for a loss, 1 pass breakup, 2 interceptions
Lowdermilk showed he is a stud against Purdue, recording a team-high seven tackles and grabbing two interceptions in the fourth quarter to not allowing Purdue to keep the game close. The second interception should have been for a touchdown, but Lowdermilk took a slide so the Hawkeyes could kneel the ball and call it a day, crediting his respect for the Purdue coaching staff as a reason to not run up the score. He is tied with Alston with for the most tackles on the team with 36, and also leads the Hawkeyes with his two interceptions. Lowdermilk isn’t afraid to go make a play in the run game, and he is a big reason why the Iowa run defense is so good.
Iowa 24, Pittsburgh 20: Down 17-7 at halftime, Iowa rallied in the second half, outscoring the Panthers 17-3 in the final two quarters to grab a key road win. It was one of those games where everybody played their part for the Hawkeyes, which tends to happen with Kirk Ferentz teams. Ten different Iowa players recorded a reception, star running back Mark Weisman finished with 88 rushing yards, and John Lowdermilk led the Hawkeye defense with 11 tackles. It was sophomore quarterback C.J. Beathard who was the star of the game though, as he took over for the injured Jake Rudock in the second half, leading the way to three scoring drives, going 7-of-8 passing for 98 yards.
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz
Ferentz has been the head coach at Iowa since 1999, replacing the legendary Hayden Fry, who had coached the Hawkeyes for the previous two decades. While Ferentz’s first few seasons didn’t go smoothly, in 2002 they shared the Big Ten title with Ohio State, as both teams finished 8-0 in conference play. Since then, Iowa has had only one losing season, going 4-8 in 2012, including a loss to Indiana. Under Ferentz, Iowa reached the Orange Bowl twice, winning the 2010 Orange Bowl 24-14 over Georgia Tech. In twelve games against Indiana, Ferentz is 7-5. His previous coaching career includes stints as an NFL offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens from 1993-1998. His head coaching career started at the University of Maine, where he coached from 1990-1992.
IU – Iowa
Points/Game: 33 – 22.6
Points Allowed/Game: 28.6 – 17.2
Total Offense Avg.: 513.2 – 372.4
Pass Yards Avg.: 213.2 – 232.2
Rushing Yards Avg.: 300 – 140.2
Total Defense Avg.: 415.2 – 310.4
Passing Defense Avg.: 286.4 – 217.2
Rushing Defense Avg.: 128.8 – 93.2
Last Meeting Between These Teams
Indiana 24, Iowa 21, Nov. 3, 2012 in Bloomington, Ind.
In 2012, both Indiana and Iowa finished the season 4-8, so the game between the two was an even match. Indiana was fighting for its season in that one, as a win put them in a possible tiebreaker game the following week against Wisconsin, since Penn State and Ohio State were both suspended from postseason play. The Hoosiers answered the call, taking the win and giving Kevin Wilson his only back-to-back wins since being named head coach at IU.
Iowa is known for its powerful ground attack, led this season by 240-pound Mark Weisman. The Hawkeyes have one of the top offensive lines in the nation, allowing them to run between the tackles using big packages with plenty of fullback and tight end use. Even when playing from behind, they are going to keep it on the ground. The run game sets up the pass, and Head Coach Kirk Ferentz loves to use the play action to get the football out to some of Iowa’s play makers at receivers.
Key Matchup: Iowa run game vs. Indiana run defense
The Indiana defense is going to have to amp up its toughness in order to slow down the Hawkeye ground attack. Iowa is easily the most physical team IU has played to date, and they are going to run all game long. The Hawkeyes use their running capabilities to control the clock and tempo of the game, which is very different from the up-tempo style that Kevin Wilson and the Hoosier offense loves to run. If Iowa is able to control the clock and keep the game pace slow, they will have the advantage. On the other hand, if Indiana can force a few three-and-outs and keep the defense off the field, the advantage goes to the Hoosiers.
What They’re Saying
Head Coach Kevin Wilson:
“Iowa coming in, very good as always; 4 and 1, one of the top teams in our conference, have been for years with Coach Ferentz. West division; some people think one of the premier teams that can win that division, and they're sitting undefeated with only one conference game. Sitting at 4 and 1 they've played a good schedule. Solid and strong as they always are. Legit on defense. They lost three great linebackers. They plugged three guys in, with their structure and defensive front, their coaching, hadn't missed a beat. Played really, really good defense. They've given up three touchdowns in 12 red zone opportunities, so 25 percent of the time, when you get in the scoring zone, you get a touchdown, and that's not a good formula on the road. Not scoring when you get an opportunity or kicking field goals is not something that wins on the road a lot in the lifetime of football. So that'll be a challenge for our offense. Offensively, as always, got a great offensive line, starting with their head coach and their line coach and their background. Always good. Maybe the premier player of our conference is their left tackle. So tremendous offensive line, awesome with the run game, and they stay with it. Their numbers aren't that good because they do it and people load up, but with that their passing -- you would come in saying we're the passing team and they're the running team, yet their passing statistics are way better than ours and our running statistics are way better than theirs. So it's kind of like our passing sets up the run; their running sets up our pass. Did a great job with their play-action game and their balance and what they do. They don't beat themselves; solid at the kicking game. If you play well, it'll be a dog fight. If not, you'll get your butt beat by a really good program. So great challenge. I know our guys are looking forward to it. Great chance to go on the road, we'll be playing at noon on ESPNU."
Wilson on Iowa’s two quarterbacks:
“It's not like one becomes the athletic zone read or one's just a running quarterback. One's a throwing. They're going to run similar stuff, and I don't know if it's due to just how they played or if the one guy that starts got maybe nicked up a little, I don't know. They're very fortunate because I remember going back and listening to preseason where they thought they had depth in the position, so I think it's just the nature of where they are offensively, but I don't think it changes dramatically. They're going to do what they do, and they execute it really well, and I'm sure that Coach Davis and Kirk will get the guy they think is going to give them the best chance to win, and it's kind of nice they got two guys they can do it with."
Offensive Coordinator Kevin Johns:
“Iowa is very sound defensively, and very big and strong up front. They’re going to play right down the middle, right through people. They’re strong, they’re going to squeeze the pocket down, they’re going to make it really difficult to run the ball, they squeeze down the running lanes. So they do a good job of getting you in third and long, and then in third and long they’re very good with their third down pass defense, different coverages, different blitzes. Just from a personnel stand point, they’re the biggest, strongest team we’ve played to date, which will be a great challenge for us. Iowa has done a good job for a long time of just doing what they do, being very consistent with their scheme, very sound with their scheme. You kind of know how they’re going to line up and now you need to go out there and find ways to exploit it.”
Defensive Coordinator Brian Knorr:
“Iowa is a big, strong and physical team, and you better be focused on stopping the run. And they’ve been pretty good throwing the ball this year, so it presents a challenge for us in that way.”
“Iowa’s very similar to what they’ve been in the past, a big, physical line up front. You can certainly see what he (Brandon Scherff) is at. They have the ability, their center is very talented as well. Having an awareness of where he’s at certainly will be important for us, but they really don’t focus one way or the other as far as going to him in certain situations. They’re going to do what they do.”
LB Clyde Newton
“I know they’ve got big backs, and they’re going to try to pound us. And they aren’t going to change too much in their style of the game. They’re going to use both quarterbacks and we’re going to have to learn both styles. But end of the day, I feel like they’re going to be Iowa and just run their offense.”
S Chase Dutra b>
“They’re a physical team, really fundamental. They’ll try to get you on some double moves, stuff like that, but a really physical team overall. Iowa’s going to be a tough opponent, and we’ve got to come out fighting. It’s going to be a good game.”
Follow Ben Faunce on Twitter.com/ben_faunce