NW Pregame: Final Take

As Iowa sits less than 24 hours from kicking things off against Northwestern, Hawkeye Insider's Rob Howe takes a look at the latest News and Notes in Iowa City.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - We're back again with our new weekly feature, "Final Take." This is our last look at news and notes surrounding the Iowa football team before Saturday's kickoff.

Last week, in our first installment of this new feature, we told you that Keenan Davis would be returning punts and kicks. We also provided an injury update and offered up our prediction.

So, let's take a look at how things are shaping Iowa for the Hawkeyes as they make final preparations for Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff against Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium with a chance to move to 10-0:

  • Injury Update:
  • Coach Kirk Ferentz said at Tuesday's press conference and again on his call-in show on Wednesday that receiver Colin Sandeman was at least another week away from returning to action. The junior suffered a concussion at Michigan State two weeks ago.

    There has been some speculation that Adam Robinson might make it back before the end of the regular season despite Ferentz saying after the Michigan State contest that he would be out until the bowl game. The running back sprained his ankle against the Spartans.

    Here's the latest from the coach when asked on Tuesday how Robinson was doing and if he could be nearing a return: "He is doing well. There is a chance for anything. We are not thinking about it right now."

    I have not heard much on Brett Greenwood the last few days. The coaches were taking it slow with him at practice and it could be a game-time decision like last week. Against Indiana, the junior safety tried to go, but pulled himself out because of soreness from a stinger suffered at Michigan State.

    Trey Stross was dinged up last week against Indiana, but is expected to be back in the starting lineup this Saturday. Jeremiha Hunter tweaked his hamstring at Michigan State, started last week, and aggravated it. He should be fine to go against Northwestern.

  • Return Game:
  • The merry-go-round continues at punt returner with Sandeman out. And this week's version could be very interesting.

    Iowa plans on using two guys that it has not thrown out there this season – Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Tyler Sash. What's even a little more crazy is that they could be on the field at the same time to return punts.

    Brandon Wegher, who moved into the No. 1 running back spot when Robinson went down, will be held off kickoff return for at least another week. The tandem of Johnson-Koulianos and true freshman Keenan Davis will be back there as they were against Indiana. Davis and Amari Spievey have been removed from punt return duties after struggling with it last week.

  • Hard Feelings:
  • Stross made some news this week when he told the Iowa City Press-Citizen's Andy Hamilton that he had not spoken to former roommate and Hawkeye starting quarterback Jake Christensen since he left the Iowa program this summer. He transferred to Eastern Illinois University.

    Christensen has been outspoken in a critical way of some things that he feels went against him at Iowa, which I wrote about in a column this week. Stross defended the Hawkeye program and said that he had de-friended his former roommate on Face Book after reading the comments.

    Christensen's father, Jeff, then contacted the Des Moines Register, saying that his son had been pulling for the Hawkeyes all year and Andrew Logue wrote about it in his blog. On Thursday, Jake spoke with Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in this story.

    Despite what the Christensen's are saying publicly, some of Jake's former Hawkeye teammates aren't buying it. Jake has not apologized to anyone for his comments and indicated that he felt Stross' comments about him were out of line.

    If Christensen holds to his word about returning to Iowa City for Saturday's game, I wouldn't expect a warm welcome from most of his ex-teammates. And by all indications, Jake doesn't care.

  • The Prediction:
  • As I said before last week's Indiana game, the Hoosiers are a team that's given Iowa troubles. Well, Northwestern has done the same thing, if not more so.

    I would be a lot more concerned if Northwestern's Mike Kafka was 100 percent healthy. He's not, as he nursing a bum hamstring. That really neutralizes the dual-threat quarterback.

    The Hawkeyes will contain Kafka in the running game and make him one dimensional. In conference action only, Northwestern is dead last in rushing (102.2 YPG). The Wildcats lead the league in passing (277.6 YPG).

    Iowa might have to use the pass to set up the run. An improved Northwestern defense ranks sixth in conference against the rush (123.6 YPG), but dead last in the Big Ten for pass defense efficiency. The Wildcats are allowing opponents to complete 65.1 percent of their passes with an efficiency of 150.9. Hawkeye opponents are completing just 50.3 percent of their passes at an efficiency rate of 94.9.

    I think Iowa figured some things out in the passing game last week that the wind may have prevented it from chasing in on. With the Hawkeyes' last two opponents heck bent on taking away Tony Moeaki, their receivers are one-on-one with DBs. They will take advantage of that this week by hitting the open ends or finding Moeaki if Northwestern plays honest.

    I'm getting the indication that this Iowa team isn't one to blow out the opponent. I'm also feeling like losing is not an option.

    Iowa 27, Northwestern 17

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