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Editor’s note: This is eighth in a 12-part series previewing Iowa football’s 2022 opponents.
Iowa and Northwestern have experienced their fair share of close football games in recent history.
Five of the last six Iowa-Northwestern games have been decided by one possession, and the Wildcats have won four of those six games.
But the Wildcats, who will visit Kinnick on Oct. 29 for Iowa’s homecoming game, are in the midst of a rough stretch.
Northwestern has gone 8-18 in Big Ten play the last three years, and six of those wins came in the COVID-19-affected 2020 season.
Northwestern has one of the lowest preseason projections in the Big Ten. ESPN’s Football Power Index ranked the Wildcats 81st nationally and 13th in the Big Ten.
National sports writer Phil Steele slotted NU as tied for last in the Big Ten West with Illinois. Steele also ranked Northwestern’s receivers, defensive line and linebackers either last or tied for last in the conference.
Of course, the Wildcats have overcome low preseason expectations before. They haven’t been ranked in the preseason Associated Press poll since 2013, yet they’ve been ranked in the final AP poll four time since then.
Starting quarterback Ryan Hilinski is returning in 2022. But his numbers in 2021 were far from inspiring — 54 percent of passes completed, three touchdowns and four interceptions in nine games.
Running back Evan Hull and much of the offensive line are returning and likely will be the strength of this offense.
Iowa vs. Northwestern: 3 things to watch
- How well does Iowa contain Northwestern’s ground attack? When Hull rushed for 110 or more yards in 2021, Northwestern was 2-0 versus 1-9 when he didn’t hit that mark. If the Wildcats have to rely on Hilinski to keep them in the game, the already-favorable odds for the Hawkeyes would be even better.
- How much pressure can NU defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore put on Iowa’s starting quarterback? Adebawore led the Wildcats with 4.5 sacks and was second on the team with 5.5 tackles for loss in 2021. He had 12 quarterback hurries. The next-best NU player only had two.
- Can Iowa establish an early lead and preserve it? Last year’s 17-12 result in a must-win game was closer than many Hawkeye fans would’ve preferred. Iowa has a slim margin for error in this year’s Big Ten schedule, so letting Northwestern be one blown coverage away from an upset would not be ideal.
Iowa, on paper, appears to have a much more talented team going into the 2022 season. But just like many of the past games between these two Big Ten West foes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this game have a closer result than expected.
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