The theme of this will be that the margin of error for Iowa tomorrow is very slim. It's a difficult to say an undefeated team heads into a contest overmatched, but with the amount of starters on the shelf with injury, Iowa is. They'll be without their top wideout, opening day starting running back, both starting offensive tackles, and their all-conference defensive end from a year ago.
When the margin of error is so slim, you have to make up for it elsewhere. They absolutely can not turn the ball over and they have to force turnovers of their own. They don't win this game without being at least +2 in the turnover battle in my opinion. With how this defense has played this year, that is definitely doable.
Again, the margin of error is slim and the offense has a ton to overcome headed into this matchup with the Northwestern defense in terms of injuries and having guys playing that aren't 100 percent. They can really tip the scales in this game if they are able to dictate field position. A sensational game out of punter Dillon Kidd is sorely needed and they have to be able to come up with enough plays to give themselves a shorter field. The offense is in need of any help they can get.
Scoring a touchdown on special teams and defense really shakes this game up and makes it unpredictable. That's really what the Hawkeyes need. Desmond King has come close to busting a few. Saturday would be the time to do it.
RUNNING THE BALL
Everyone seems to believe they'll struggle in this department but I don't see that as a lock coming in. I think they can run the ball. Sure, Northwestern will load the box and make Iowa pass to win, but so has every other team. It certainly hasn't worked yet. If Northwestern makes Iowa pass to win, the Hawkeyes lose. The new offensive tackles can't be asked to pass protect the whole game. It's just not realistic.
They can run block, though. Every team has tried to stop the Iowa rushing attack and every team has failed. A lot will be asked out of the Hawkeye defense. Giving them breaks and controlling time of possession and field position is imperative. You do that by running the ball.
Iowa doesn't win if they can't pound the rock on Saturday.