IOWA: One Day and Counting

Bloomington – Forget about the top-10 ranking, the undefeated record, and the turnover-creating defense that Big Ten leader Iowa possesses. That's not enough to extinguish the enthusiasm from IU offensive tackle Rodger Saffold about Saturday's match-up...

Bloomington – Forget about the top-10 ranking, the undefeated record, and the turnover-creating defense that Big Ten leader Iowa possesses.

That's not enough to extinguish the enthusiasm from IU offensive tackle Rodger Saffold about Saturday's match-up. After all, what most might view as a daunting challenge Saffold sees as an opportunity to do something special in his final season as an Indiana Hoosier.

"You always relish those opportunities because those are games you can remember for a lifetime," Saffold said. "It's a great place to play, it's going to be high energy."

But that's not all that Saffold is excited about when he thinks about tomorrow's Noon kick-off.

"It's Halloween! Who doesn't want to play on Halloween?" Saffold joked.

All kidding aside, Indiana is trying to avoid turning in another ghoulish performance against Kirk Ferentz's seventh-ranked Hawkeyes. A season ago the Hawkeyes trounced the Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium 45-9, the fourth setback during a five-game losing streak that saw the Hoosiers get outscored by an average of 24.4 points/game.

While that result wasn't the most pleasurable of experiences, Saffold does have very positive memories to fall back on as well. As a freshman in 2006 Indiana upset 13th-ranked Iowa 31-28, and that was followed by a 38-20 win at Kinnick Stadium in 2007. The 2007 road win helped propel Indiana to a seven-win season and a spot in the Insight Bowl, and Saffold is hoping another upset victory could do the same in 2009.

It won't be easy. Iowa hasn't dominated teams, winning seven of its eight games by 11 points or less. But Ferentz's team has been stingy on defense, opportunistic on offense, and clutch when games have been on the line in the fourth quarter.

Indiana will have to be at its best on both sides of the ball to get it to the fourth quarter with a chance to win, but that's the mindset that Saffold has.

"We learned from what happened at Northwestern, let's get ready for a 60-minute game," Saffold said. "This is something where you're going to have to dig deep and fight for the inches on every single play, every yard. We have to do what we do and attack. We can't sit back and let things happen, because we know where that gets us."

That sounds good, but will Indiana have a chance to stay in this contest? Iowa doesn't figure to overlook the 4-4 Hoosiers considering everything that is at stake, and Indiana could be hard pressed to bounce back from last week's crushing defeat in Evanston.

But there's something working in Indiana's favor as well. As deflating as last week's loss was, the players and coaches were uplifted by Fred Glass' announcement earlier this week that Coach Bill Lynch would be back next fall. Four losses in five games had many around the program fearing the worst, particularly after blowing the 25-point lead in Evanston.

That vote of confidence has seemingly done wonders in helping the program turn the page on last week's result, so look for Indiana to come back with a more spirited effort against Iowa than I would have otherwise expected. It might not be enough to end Iowa's undefeated season, but it should be good enough to keep fans from both schools glued to the game well into the fourth quarter.

Hoosier Nation's Prediction: Iowa 23, Indiana 16

Coming Up
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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