Four Days and Counting

HoosierNation.com takes a closer look at four pivotal matchups in Saturday's game between Indiana (4-1/1-1) and Iowa (3-2/1-1) that will be played at 11 a.m. at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium.

IU WR James Hardy vs. IA CB Jovan Johnson - There's no questioning the productivity of Johnson, a fourth-year starter who has two interceptions this season and 16 for his career. Those 16 interceptions not only ranks third in Iowa history, but he needs only two more picks to move into the top 10 in Big Ten history in interceptions.

That said, at only 5-9 and 177 pounds, he'll have his hands full with Hardy, who is a full ten inches taller at 6-7 and nearly 40 pound heavier at 215. Hardy won't be matched up in many one-on-one situations with Johnson as the Hawkeyes prefer to play zone coverage, so the matchup might wind up being more of a Blake Powers vs. Johnson showdown. When Hardy is in Johnson's area on the field, it will be up to Powers to put the high and in spots where the Johnson can't get at it, relying on Hardy to use his leaping ability and excellent hands to come down with balls that Johnson can't defend.

Indiana offensive line vs. Iowa defensive line - It's not a single matchup in the trenches that is most important, but this is a showdown that Indiana has to win if it hopes to in Iowa City and do what 21 straight visitors have failed to do – post a victory over the Hawkeyes.

The good news for Indiana, though, is that the Hawkeye defensive front is an entirely different one from a year ago. Gone are all four starters from 2004, including All-Big Ten performers Matt Roth and Jonathan Babineaux. In their place are a pair of sophomores at defensive end (including Mishawaka's Bryan Mattison) and a pair of redshirt freshmen at defensive tackle. No one on Iowa's starting defensive line weighs more than 262 pounds, and there isn't necessarily much size or experience behind them either. In fact, Iowa has a pair of true freshmen (Alex Kanellis and Ryan Bain) on the second string.

While that would seem to bode well for an Indiana offensive line that has five players with at least one year of starting experience and averages more than 305 pounds, the newcomers on the Iowa defensive front have been pleasant surprises. Sophomore defensive end Kenny Iwebema has six tackles for loss and ranks among the Big Ten leaders with six sacks, while Mattison has 21 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks. Opponents are averaging only 145 yards/game on the ground against Iowa and only 3.5 yards/carry. While a bit undersized, their quickness off the ball could present some problems.

IA WR Clinton Solomon vs. IU CBs Tracy Porter/Leslie Majors While Indiana has had success with a big wide receiver (James Hardy) who no Hoosier opponent has been able to keep out of the end zone this season, Iowa had its own big play wideout that has a noticeable size mismatch most weekend's in 6-3, 196-pound Clinton Solomon.

Solomon has been a bit up-and-down thus far, going for more than 100 yards twice (vs. Northern Iowa and Purdue), but being held to less than 25 yards three times (vs. Ball State, Ohio State and Illinois). But after his five-catch, 166-yard, two-touchdown performance last weekend at Purdue, he is a player that Indiana will have to devote plenty of attention to.

Making Solomon an even more important part of the Iowa offense is the fact that the other starting wideout, Ed Hinkel, was lost in the Purdue game with a broken arm. Hinkel leads the team with 20 catches and has been a reliable possession receiver for Ferentz, but his absence will put added pressure – and importance – on the contributions of Solomon.

Solomon will likely get his catches from quarterback Drew Tate, but the Indiana secondary can't allow Solomon to get behind them and make a big play, much like Wisconsin's Jonathan Orr did a couple of times in Madison. Solomon has excellent speed and is among the Big Ten's leaders with a 20.9 yards/reception average, so Tate will like to him to stretch the field.

Blake Powers vs. Abdul Hodge/Chad Greenway: Whether it's running the ball or throwing it, Indiana's sophomore quarterback will have to deal with one of the best linebacking tandems in college football in Hodge and Greenway.

A preseason first-team All-American, Greenway is a 6-4, 244-pounder who will be waiting when Powers looks to either run the option or take off running when he can't find an open receiver downfield. Hodge, meanwhile, is a 6-2, 234-pounder who earned preseason second-team All-America honors. Like Greenway, Powers will also have to account for Hodge as well, who will be stationed in the middle of the Hawkeye defense.

Both are athletic linebackers who will rush the quarterback at times, but can also drop back and defend the pass in either man coverage or zone. Both have the speed to cover a tailback coming out of the backfield or a tight end coming off the line of scrimmage. Greenway has a pair of sacks this season to go along with a pair of quarterback sacks, and made a critical play against Purdue when he tipped a pass in the back of the end zone that was eventually intercepted by Edmond Miles. Hodge, meanwhile, is another big linebacker who can run and create a turnover on defense.

Greenway leads the Big Ten with 79 tackles, while Hodge in the top five with 62. They'll put up good numbers in terms of tackles, but Powers can't afford to let them force him into a turnover.

What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday - Hoosier Gameday

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