It’s time now for our weekly glimpse at the head-to-head numbers in hopes that we can offer you some facts to support your speculation on the potential gameplans for this weekend’s match-up. Before looking at the numbers, the common sense strategy in this game, with Iowa potentially down to their 33rd string RB and Northwestern in to their 3rd string at CBs would be a simple game of the erratic James Vandenberg testing our corners all day long. We’ve been solid against the run all year and Iowa has struggled to pass. On the flip side, the question mark of Venric Mark’s health could impact our gameplan (he’s expected to play), but we’ll need balance to win this game as Iowa, as usual, has been pretty solid in both phases of defense. Let’s take a look at the numbers…
Northwestern Offense VS Iowa Offense
|Offense||Passing||Rushing||Total Offense||Scoring Offense||3rd Down Conv.||Red Zone Offense|
|Northwestern||172.8 ypg||223.6 ypg||396.4ypg||30.8 ppg||53/122 43.4%||29/31 (15 rush, 4 pass TD/10 FG) 94%|
|Iowa||189.0 ypg||135.4 ypg||324.4 ypg||20.9 ppg||36/100 36.0 %||20/25 (8 rush, 2 pass TD, 10 FG) 80%|
I’m not sure they keep a stat on this, but the fact the ‘Cats are dead last in both passing offense and passing defense, yet are 6-2 has to be some kind of record. It’s downright absurd and really defies logic. Clearly the ‘Cats have obtained success with their surprising ground game, which now ranks 3rd in the B1G and 17th in all of the FBS. Fans are praying that Mick McCall actually lets Kain Colter throw this week, which he has barely done since the Syracuse game. Northwestern’s passing game and likely the already potent ground game have both sufferred as a result as we’ve become beyond predictable based on our QB personnel. The ‘Cats are an unfathomable 110th in passing offense and 12th as we mentioned in the conference. Our total offense is a meh 6th in the B1G and 67th nationally. Our 30.8 ppg is 5th in the B1G and 52nd nationally and if the season were to end today, it would be the first time a McCall offense averaged over 30 ppg during his tenure. If your looking for highest ranking team stat then look at our red zone productivity – we’re tied for 6th in the entire country (surprisingly with Indiana). Our 3rd down conversion ranking is 45th in the FBS.
Iowa and offense have been an oxymoron this season. Despite the amazing story of converted FB Mark Weisman and his wondrous rushing ways, the Hawkeyes muster an 88th best ground attack with 135 ypg. Their passing attack is slightly less anemic than ours and shows just how far the B1G has fallen in this category as 189 ypg in the air is better than five other B1G teams, yet is tied for 101st nationally. The Hawkeyes total offense is 11th in the B1G and 105th in the nation and their meager 20 ppg is 10th and 101st respectively. Simply put, they’re an unintimidating bunch when they have the ball, but as exhibited against a fantastic Sparty “D”, they can win games with their defense. Add in the fact the Hawkeyes have lost two offensive linemen for this game (one for the season) and their star RB is questionable at best and you have an even further indication that this is going to be a mirror image of what we tried to do against Nebraska last week (albeit, credit to the Huskers for taking us out of our gameplan and NU not being able to beat them long) and I suspect James Vandenberg will throw more deep balls along the boundary than he has all season combined.
Northwestern Defense vs Iowa Defense
|Defense||Passing||Rushing||Total Defense||Scoring Defense||Sacks/TFLs||3rd Down Defense|
|Northwestern||280.0 ypg||121.3 ypg||401.0 ypg||23.0 ppg||2.0 pg/5.3 pg||46/123 37.4%|
|Iowa||212.8 ypg||131.3 ypg||343.9 ypg||20.1 ppg||1.3 pg/5.1 pg||39/105 37.1%|
If you’re a Northwestern fan you’ll want to focus in on the ‘Cats rushing defense which has dropped to 4th in the B1G and 29th in the FBS, but is just 21 ypg behind Michigan State. Truth be told, holding Nebraska to 201 ypg on the ground was a big win, considering the Huskers prodigious rushing attack of nearly 300 ypg. Our scoring defense of 23 ppg is respectable, yet only 7th in the B1G and 43rd nationally, but Hawkeyes fans should be eyeing our woeful pass defense which is 110th in the land and last in the B1G, despite vast improvement thanks to the stellar play of Nick VanHoose and Ibraheim Campbell. The stats plummetted in concert with VanHoose’s injury last week – we got gashed for 140 yards in the air after he left the game. The ‘Cats are 70th in total defense, but the stats don’t seem to really underscore the improvement of this unit which frankly has won us several games and kept us in many others, including Nebraska, when the offense has gone through way too many of its dry spells. A much underreported stat this year is sacks, as we’re 4th in the conference with 16 (2.0 pg), one shy of our entire 2011 season mark, which was the scarlet letter for inefficient pass rush.
The Hawkeyes “D” conjures up the word “solid”. Every category for the Hawkeyes is top 40 in the nation on this side of the ball with the exception of their pass “D” which is a respectable 44th. They’re 33rd in the nation in total defense, 28th in scoring defense and 39th in rushing defense. They are 6th in the B1G in nearly every defensive category and therefore decidedly average in an average conference this year. However, they’re across the board consistent in their average ways which makes them a good-not-great unit, but one that you know you’ll have to really earn every yard. Nothing screams out as an overt weakness which again underscores the notion that a balanced attack of rushing and passing will likely be needed to beat the Hawkeyes.
We didn’t go in to special teams where Iowa is very below average, especially in net punting, which, assuming Venric plays and returns punts, is a huge advantage for us, as he is tops in the nation. The Hawkeyes, conversely, are 88th in punt returns as a team. Northwestern is inexplicably woeful in kickoff returns (117th in FBS) despite the nation’s leading punt returner handling the same duties. It is partially because Tim Hanrahan doesn’t seem to want to let Venric ever leave the end zone, but that’s a different story altogether (touchbacks don’t count against the average). Mike Meyer had been automatic for Iowa in FGs, but has had a rough go as of late. Jeff Budzien has transformed in to one of the elite placekickers nationally and had he been one foot to the left on that 53-yarder last week, he may have sewn up the Lou Groza award in October.
Cool Chance To Meet Fitz
There is a lot of chatter here on playcalling, personnel and the like. Well, now you can discuss it face-to-face. Our friends at the BTN have a pretty neat contest going on so I’m passing it along:
Hey, NU fans – here’s a chance for you to win an exclusive meet and greet with Coach Pat Fitzgerald. Sign up at BTNRewardsU today and start earning points through social media activities. The winner and a guest will attend a closed Northwestern football practice from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on Nov. 2, 2012, meet Coach Fitz and have your pictures taken. You’ll also win a signed Pat Fitzgerald football and Northwestern football gear. Must be 18 years of age or older. http://bit.ly/RewardsU
Project Pass The Hat
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