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Northwestern Wildcats vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Northwestern Wildcats (5-4)(2-6ATS) v. No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-0)(6-2ATS) Saturday, Nov. 7, 12pm ET, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, ESPN
by Evergreen of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Northwestern +16.5/Iowa -16.5
Over/Under Total: 44.5

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The march to a potential BCS title game for the Iowa Hawkeyes continues this week when they welcome the Northwesten Wildcats into Iowa City for a week 10 tilt.  It hasn’t been an easy path to 9-0 for the Hawkeyes as they have pulled several wins out of the fire and they now battle another injury in their already short backfield with the loss of Adam Robinson.  The Wildcats are looking not only to play spoiler this weekend but at 5-4, they need some wins to ensure a bowl berth.  The game kicks as part of the 12pm ET wave and will be aired on ESPN.

Iowa opened up the week as 16.5 point favorites with the over/under at 44.5 and neither number has changed much, but a half point either way is available depending on your online sportsbook of choice.  The under is 4-0 in the last four meetings between these schools and 7-1 in the last 8 Northwestern road contests.  The Hawkeyes are on the money line at -700 to -750 with the Wildcats in the +550 to +575 range.

Northwestern took one on the chin last week against Penn State, losing by a 34-13 margin and losing starting quarterback Mike Kafka to a leg injury in the process.  Kafka may return as early as Saturday, but the loss pushed the Wildcats to 7th in the Big Ten at 2-3.  Northwestern had been riding high after a 29-28 win against Indiana the week prior in which they trailed 28-3 at one point.  NU has played well as the road dog, going 6-0 against the spread in such games, but do not fare well on grass, accumulating a 1-5 ATS mark in their last six off turf.

Iowa is coming off its latest Houdini act of the season, beating Indiana 42-24 after trailing 24-14 in the third quarter.  The last three weeks have seen the Hawkeyes pull out a win after trailing in each game, including a last second touchdown against Michigan State. A win is ultimately a win and Iowa is all the way up to No. 4 in the BCS rankings while 8th in the AP Top-25.  The Hawkeyes have been solid against conference opponents, winning 5 of the last 6 against the spread versus the Big Ten and have an 8-2 ATS record in their last 10 overall.

The last meeting between these schools saw Northwestern pull out a 22-17 win last September and the Wildcats have won three of the last four games from 2005-2008.  Iowa won in 2007 by a 28-17 margin and the underdog is 4-0 against the spread over that span.

Offensively, the Wildcats are a pretty good unit, especially through the air where they average 268 yards per game, good for 24th in the NCAA.  The running backs aren’t going to scare anyone, but QB scrambles are a big part of the 121 rush yards per contest and Northwestern converts to the tune of 25.7 points per game.  The defense is average, but solid, allowing 349 total yards and 24.8 points per game on average and is best at stopping the run, allowing just 122 yards to the opponent ground game.

Mike Kafka does it all for Northwestern, passing for 2,195 yards and adding another 248 on the ground and has accounted for 15 total scores.  Kafka’s leg injury is supposedly minor, but if he cannot go this weekend, Dan Persa will take the snaps.  Persa played well in relief last week, and is 15 for 25 on the year for 187 yards with one TD and one pick.  He does provide a similar rush threat to that of Kafka with 77 yards in limited action.  Zeke Markshausen and Andrew Brewer are the playmakers, with the duo combining for 104 catches and nearly 1,200 yards to this point.

Along with Kafka (questionable), Northwestern is reporting DE Vince Brown, OL Mike Boyle and LB Bryce McNaul as questionable for this Saturday.

The Hawkeyes do not have the type of offense that you’d associate with an unbeaten team, ranking outside the top-45 in yards gained categories and 74th in points with 25.7 per game.  The pass game has had to take over with so many injuries to the backs, and Iowa does throw it effectively, averaging 232 yards per game and has big play potential as well.  The defense is the clear strength for Iowa; allowing only 297 total yards per contest and a 13th best 15.8 points per game.

Richard Stanzi is coming off a five interception game, but is the clear leader of the team and has played well throughout the year, throwing for 2,052 yards and 14 touchdowns to this point. Adam Robinson had played well while filling in for Jewel Hampton since week 1, but his loss to injury puts the weight on the shoulders of ,b>Brandon Wegher.  Wegher does lead the Hawkeyes with six rushing scores and will likely see most of the carries from here on out.  Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt are the definitions of a big play threat, with both averaging over 19.6 yards per catch.  Tony Moeaki has been quiet since the early games, but remains a safe target for Stanzi at TE with 23 catches and four scores.

In addition to Robinson (out), Iowa lists WR Colin Sandeman as questionable and OL Dace Richardson as out for this weekend.

Evergreen’s Pick: You only have to look at the fingernails of Iowa fans to know that the Hawkeyes play in close games.  They don’t score enough points to shake most teams early and the injury situation in the backfield won’t help.  Iowa goes to 10-0, but take the Wildcats and the points with the final right in the 24-10 range.

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