On paper, Iowa should have their way with Rutgers but they're coming off a disappointing loss to North Dakota State, are on the road for the first time this year, the Scarlet Knights have been able to escape the first few weeks with a good deal of confidence, they already have some familiarity with the Hawkeyes, and Iowa has shown to have a bit more holes on their team than anticipated at the beginning of the season.
Iowa's defense has been good but they have been plagued by big plays and being on the losing end of the time of possession battle. Iowa's offense has been inconsistent just like their quarterback C.J. Beathard, and their offensive line has been taking on water without James Daniels and Sean Welsh. Both return this week which should help out the running game and spring it forward against a defense not really made to withstand a lot of physicality at the line of scrimmage.
Because the Hawkeyes are on the road and working out a few kinks on both sides of the ball, this may end up being more of a challenge than fans would like to see.
KEYS TO WIN
1) START FAST - I've mentioned all week that in Rutger's first three games they've fallen behind by multiple touchdowns early on. They seem to settle down a tad after the first quarters, so it would benefit Iowa greatly to score a few TD's in the first quarter and get out to that early lead before Rutgers settles in.
2) PROTECT BEATHARD - Beathard took some shots last week against North Dakota State and even had to leave the field at one point after being hit hard. Rutgers has a couple of guys that do a good job of getting to the QB, so keeping C.J. standing is going to be big on Saturday. I think Iowa is going to be taking some shots down the field so the line might have to hold protection longer than usual.
3) KEEP CONTAIN - Rutgers is going to do their best to get their speedy playmakers in space with quick screens and other short throws. Iowa has two corners that tackle extremely well, but will need to keep contain on guys like Janarion Grant, who the RU staff likes to get involved a lot.
1) ESTABLISH PACE AND STYLE -The way to beat Rutgers is not through the air or in a track meet. It's to grind them out, beat them up along the line of scrimmage, and test their physicality. The Scarlet Knights have playmakers and speed. There isn't a shortage of that. But they aren't as acclimated to the typical style of Big Ten football that is played in the trenches. Iowa needs to establish this type of game early on and dictate the way this game is played, not the other way around.
2) TACKLE WELL - Rutgers is a spread team now and they have the speed and playmakers for it as well, namely Janarion Grant. Against these styles of teams, you have to be able to tackle in the open field. Iowa has a few guys that do it well but they also have a few that have been awful in that regard the last couple weeks. The safeties need to bring it in this one because there will be situations where they are needed. You have to tackle to beat Rutgers. They won't beat you up or manhandle you with their offensive line but they will put you in one-on-one situations where you have to make the tackle.
3) FORCE SOME TURNOVERS - Iowa's defense has bent a lot this year, but hasn't completely broken. They probably need to bend a little less so that they can get off the field on third downs. That time of possession has really caught up to the defense towards the end of games. They haven't controlled the time of possession at all much early on in the season and it has become all too customary to surrender all drives. So two keys come out of this; Win Third Down and Force Turnovers. Extend drives on offense and get off the field on defense. That time of possession has not been their friend.
HAWK TO ROCK
DYLAN: Iowa is going to be able to get behind this defense and produce some big plays. Washington did it with relative ease and I think the same holds true on Saturday. So in that case, give me Matt Vandeberg here. He's experienced, he's a great route runner, and he seems to always find the soft spot on the field. Matt catches 6 balls for 108 yards and a score.
DEREK: On offense I will roll with Akrum Wadley. I think they want to throw the ball to beat this team, especially with the way they lost their identity against North Dakota State and were unable to move the ball on the ground. LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley both go over 100 yards but Wadley breaks a few long ones and finds the end zone more. Sure, Washington found some throwing space behind the Rutgers secondary but they'll find a lot of room all year because they have some crazy athletes on offense. I think that had more to do with Washington's offense than Rutgers' defense. The way to beat the Scarlet Knights if you're Iowa is to re-establish your identity and that will stir up a big game from Akrum Wadley back home.
On defense I will go with Greg Mabin. He has a chance to score an interception in this game and he is one of the best open-field tacklers on this Iowa team and that trait will come in handy big time against the Rutgers spread offense. Mabin will be a key cog in the Iowa defense on Saturday. If he shows up and plays up to ability, it could be a big day for him.
DYLAN: Iowa 38, Rutgers 13
DEREK: Iowa 34, Rutgers 20