The Prediction

HI Publisher Rob Howe previews this weekend's Big Ten contest with Penn State and picks the winner:

What, When, Where: Northwestern plays host to Iowa. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:01 am CT Saturday, Oct. 27, at Ryan Field in Evanston, IL.

TV: ESPN2 will carry the game to a national audience with Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway and Lewis Johnson calling the action.

HUDDLE: The "Hawkeye Huddle" will be on Friday, October 26. The Huddle will be held from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Goose Island Wrigleyville, 3535 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois. The Hawkeye Huddle is hosted by the National I-Club and the UI Alumni Association.

Admission to the Hawkeye Huddle is free and includes cash refreshments, snacks, door prizes, cheerleaders and Herky. Visit www.jointheiclub.com for additional information.

Point Spread: As of Wednesday afternoon, Northwestern is a 6-point favorite at the Caesars Vegas. The total was off of the board.

Iowa Trend: Hawkeyes are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 road games.

Northwestern Trend: Wildcats are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 home games.

Prediction: If you're down on your luck and looking to make a quick buck, bet the opposite of what you're about to read. My prognostication skills, quite frankly, stink.

I'm 3-4 on Hawkeye contests in 2012, correctly picking the Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa and Minnesota games. A monkey is capable of that kind of production.

In fairness, this Iowa team has made little sense. The Hawkeyes were underdogs at Michigan State and won. They were favored against Penn State at home last week and got their doors blown off.

Iowa bounced back after an inexcusable, 32-21 loss to Central Michigan in Week 4. It rolled Minnesota in its next game and then pulled off the upset in East Lansing.

Northwestern isn't much better than Michigan State, if at all, and the Big Ten makes little sense week to week. Purdue took Ohio State to overtime in Columbus.

Although the Wildcats are superior to the Spartans on the win-loss ledger, the latter has played a brutal schedule.

If you're shocked by a Hawkeyes' win in Evanston this weekend, shame on you. East Lansing is the tougher place to win and Ryan Field should be flush with fans wearing black and gold.

An issue for Iowa in this game is scheme. Northwestern's open attack is known as one that gives the Hawkeyes fits, at times. They've become quicker and more athletic at linebacker in the last few years, which might benefit them against the Wildcats shifty underneath targets.

Iowa will have to hope that's the case because it's defense has been torched by the Wildcats the last two years.

In 2011, the Hawkeyes won, 41-31. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa completed 30 of 39 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown. Kain Colter carried 12 times for 76 yards and threw for 48 yards and a score.

Two years ago, Persa toyed with the winded Iowa defense during a late-game comeback. He developed one of those names that will make some Hawkeye fans cringe when they hear it.

Iowa needs to do a better job of getting to the quarterback than it did against Penn State. Whatever it takes to get there, it most likely has to happen to get Northwestern out of a rhythm.

One thing on which to keep an eye might be if the Hawkeyes are willing to pull a linebacker for a defensive back. B.J. Lowery is healthier. Greg Castillo is playing his best football. One could argue that Sean Draper and Kevin Buford have been the team's most productive true freshmen.

Iowa has to mix in some blitzes to help the defensive front early. The problem with that is you open yourself up to a big play from Colter, Venric Mark or someone else. Mark also is a dangerous return man.

Coordinator Phil Parker and his assistants have their work cut out for them. In-game adjustments likely will prove a little more important than most weeks.

An inconsistent Iowa offense will need to score quite a bit more than the seven points it did against the Nittany Lions. If the Hawkeyes can hold the home team under 20 on Saturday, they've probably done a good job.

Iowa faced the two best defenses it will see this season during the last two weeks. The Wildcats have been solid, however, checking in this week at No. 43 nationally in average points allowed at 23.0 (Iowa is 28, 20.1).

The Hawkeyes have a decent chance in Evanston. Northwestern is good but by no means a great team. Iowa isn't as bad as it looked last week.

I'd like to pick Iowa here. I sense the Hawkeyes are staying together and are confident. I'm just not sure that will be enough this week.

Score: Northwestern 27, Iowa 20


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