Preview: Northwestern Wildcats

The Hawkeyes take on the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday in a critical Big 10 matchup. Both teams sport 4-4 records and desperately need a win to turn around the season. Although injuries have hit Northwestern's offense hard, don't count on them to give up this weekend.

Iowa's offense is going through the process of a quarterback switch, as Brad Banks is taking over the reins from Kyle McCann. Although McCann's experience is considerably greater than Banks's, his athleticism is limited, and Banks has shown a knack for playmaking that McCann has lacked. Furthermore, Banks's first turnover didn't come until he had played 24 series, and that came on the last-second desperation throw at the end of the Wisconsin game. Conversely, McCann has committed 11 turnovers, with 10 on interceptions and one lost fumble against the Badgers.

The Hawkeye offense will face a Northwestern defense that has been, well… offensive. They allowed 561 yards to the Hoosiers last weekend, and are ranked 87th in total defense. In the Big 10, the Wildcats have given up almost 35 points a game, and Northwestern fans can probably expect more of the same when Iowa comes to town.

The Iowa defense is slowly being worn down by injuries, and were the same not true for the Wildcats offense, the Hawkeyes might be in real trouble. Jerry Montgomery, Derrick Pickens, Bob Sanders, Matt Stockdale, Roger Meyer, Shane Hall, and Chris Smith are all hurting from the season's grind. Stockdale is gone for the year, and Montgomery, Pickens, Sanders, Meyer, and Smith all figure to at least start the game on the bench. Still, the defense is ranked 19th in the nation, and it stifled a more potent Northwestern offense last year.

As mentioned, the Northwestern offense is being devastated by injuries. Sam Simmons, the leading receiver for the Wildcats, sustained a concussion and will sit for Saturday's game. Also, top running back Damien Anderson is recovering from a dislocated shoulder and will miss the contest as well. Their backups are decent, but it's clear that some firepower will be missing from the Wildcat offense.

The forecast is calling for temperatures in the 50's and clear skies, so the weather will be a non-factor this weekend. The Hawkeyes ought to be able to get one step closer to a bowl bid with a victory against the Wildcats. 34-17 is my guess. GO HAWKS!

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