Record: 2-3, 0-2 Big Ten
2007 Record: 7-6
Head Coach: Bill Lynch (2nd Season, 9-9 at Indiana)
All-Time Series: Iowa leads 38-27-4
Last Meeting: Indiana 38 Iowa 20 (September 29, 2007 at Iowa)
Iowa has lost two straight games to the Indiana Hoosiers, and most fans will point to the 2006 loss at Indiana as the beginning of the Hawkeyes’ most recent slide. Since that 2006 loss in Iowa’s last trip to Bloomington, the Hawkeyes’ are 10-15. Furthermore, Iowa is only 4-12 in their last 16 Big Ten conference games after losing at Indiana in 2006. This year both teams are looking for their first conference win and trying to stay out of the Big Ten cellar. The Hawkeyes have lost three straight games by a total of nine points. With a loss to the Hoosiers this Saturday, Iowa’s chances at reaching seven wins and a bowl game this season would look slim to none. But before we get into any “must win” talk, let’s take a time-out and Scout the Enemy.
Iowa fans have certainly seen enough of Hoosier quarterback Kellen Lewis to forget about his impact in the previous two meetings. It’s hard to believe that Lewis is only a junior, but he is indeed back and leads Indiana’s offense again this season. Lewis has 817 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air as well as 375 yards rushing with 3 TDs. Thankfully for the Hawkeyes, Lewis no longer has WR James Hardy to throw to as he has graduated and moved on to the NFL. IU’s leading receivers this year are Ray Fisher and Andrew Means. Fisher has 18 catches for 111 yards, and Means has pulled in 17 passes for 236 yards. Running back Marcus Thigpen is also a huge threat in Indiana’s spread offense. Thigpen has rushed for 279 yards on just 37 carries for an average of 7.5 yards. He also has 8 receptions for 210 yards for an average of 26.2 yards per catch to go along with his six total TDs. With return yards included, Thigpen is averaging 168.8 all purpose yards per game. As a whole, the Hoosiers are averaging 421 yards of total offense per game which ranks them 3rd in the Big Ten.
Indiana has been less than impressive on the defensive side of the ball. They are giving up 344 yards and 23.2 points per game, including 42 points each in home losses to both Ball State and Michigan State. Defensive end Jammie Kirlew leads a solid defensive front and leads the Hoosiers in tackles with 31. Kirlew also ranks fifth in the nation with five sacks in IU’s first five games. Greg Middleton joins him on the D-Line again after leading the nation in sacks last year. Middleton has only one sack so far this season. Safety Nick Polk has the Hoosiers only interception on the year and 22 tackles from his spot in the secondary.
Marcus Thigpen returns kicks for Indiana and is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. This year he is averaging 20.9 yards per return with a long of 33. Jerimy Finch and Ray Fisher handle the punt return duties and are both averaging 10 yards per return. Kicker Austin Starr is 4-for-6 on the season with a long of 40-yards. Chris Hagerup has punted the ball 22 times with a 43.5 yard average. He has a long of 67 yards and has 9 punts of over 50 yards.
It is awfully early in the season to begin talking about “must win” games, but if the Hawkeyes have any plans of bowling this winter, they almost definitely have to win this game. Indiana has already lost at home to Ball State and Michigan State and was beaten by Minnesota last week in the Dome. Iowa has already blown two great opportunities to win on the road this year at Pittsburgh and last week against the Spartans. A loss at Indiana would put Iowa under .500 at 3-4 with a very tough stretch of Wisconsin, at Illinois, and Penn State coming in the next four weeks. There really isn’t such a thing as a “must win” game for a 3-3 team, but as far as the emotional state of a fan base and the future of Iowa football, this Saturday’s game at Indiana is very important. Hopefully it doesn’t come to this, but three straight losses to Indiana in football is totally unacceptable for any program.