Iowa vs Indiana Preview
In one of five first-week Top 25 matchups, the Hawks host the Hoosiers in Iowa City. Tom Allen and his 17th ranked Indiana Hoosiers look to continue on last year’s momentum with another successful season. Iowa ended on a six-game win streak and hopes to make it seven against a good Big Ten opponent. Get ready for this high-profile Big Ten matchup in this Iowa vs Indiana preview.
Iowa City, IA
Three Impact Players
The Hawkeye running back has a lot of talent and will be tasked with getting things going for Iowa on offense. It’s likely that the Hawkeyes opt to start things out conservatively by giving their playmakers some confidence-building touches. The third-year starter and Doak Walker Award Watch List player will have plenty of opportunities to shine.
A large reason for Indiana’s 2020 success started with the quarterback position. Penix has an elite ability to make something out of nothing and extend drives. The junior is recovering from an ACL injury at the end of last year, but he says he is 100% and trusts his knee. Indiana’s ceiling is attainable with this playmaker under center.
The linebacker position has a lot of depth this season for the Hoosiers, and McFadden is the leader. He can diagnose plays quickly and routinely gets stops behind the line. The senior is ranked inside the top 15 best players in the Big Ten for the 2021 season. Iowa will have tough looks all day with McFadden in the middle of the field.
Penix is dangerous every time he touches the ball. As the quarterback, that happens to be every snap of the game. It’s a large reason why Indiana has had so much success in the last two seasons. In 2020, Penix threw for 1,645 yards and 14 touchdowns while leading the Hoosiers to a 6-2 season. A very experienced offensive line will protect him. They only have one new face at center, sophomore Zach Carpenter.
At receiver, fifth-year senior Ty Fryfogle is the top target. He led the team with 721 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Indiana has a position battle at running back this year after its leading rusher left for the NFL. One of the potential running backs, Sampson James, recently entered the transfer portal leaving even less depth at the position. Indiana has eight guys back on offense this season, and the group has a lot of speed. Fryfogle and Penix are a dynamic duo. With their experienced offensive line, the Hoosiers will have opportunities through the run game. Indiana can be a quick-hitting type of team with the potential to move down the field with great pace. Head coach Tom Allen will likely want the ball in Fryfogle’s hands as mush as possible throughout the game, and Penix isn’t afraid of getting the ball in the air.
The Hawkeye offense starts with the offensive line. Tyler Linderbaum is the anchor and is nationally recognized as the top center in college football. Lining up next to him is a young group. The only returning starter is Cody Ince at guard. Unfortunately, a non-football, preseason injury to the other guard, Kyler Schott, will sideline him for at least the first few games. Schott’s injury puts sophomore Justin Britt likely in the starting role. The line has a lot of size, but is fairly young and will be tested immediately against Indiana’s defense.
At the skill positions, Goodson is poised to get a substantial amount of touches. The third-year running back is one of Iowa’s best at the position in recent history and can make plays whenever he has the ball. The Hawkeyes also like to mix in the wildcat formation with Goodson in the shotgun. The speedy wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. gets involved in that formation as well. The wildcat is a new look for Iowa, as it just began implementing it last season. Adding an extra blocker for Goodson and the option to get it in the hands of Tracy or other receivers on the end-around can be game-changing. Against Illinois last season, Iowa lined up in the formation five times in a row near the end of the game. It worked on multiple occasions including two 20-plus yard gains.
Overall, the Hawkeye offense would like to come out with some quick-hitting passes and running plays to instill some confidence in quarterback Spencer Petras early on. With Petras hitting his mark, Iowa might look to open it up and take some shots downfield. The offense might even show the wildcat formation a couple of times.
The Indiana defense was incredibly efficient last season gathering a total of 20 turnovers in just eight games. Cornerback Jaylin Williams led the team with four interceptions and is back this season for his senior year. In the middle, McFadden is on the Preseason Butkus Award Watch List for the nation’s best linebacker. McFadden had two interceptions and led the Hoosiers with 58 tackles last year. Also at linebacker, Marcelino McCrary-Ball will be back after missing all of 2020 due to injury. The linebacker group as a whole is highly regarded entering this season starting three seniors.
Indiana only gave up about 20 points per game last season but allowed nearly 400 total yards per contest. The Hoosiers like to keep everything in front of them and limit the explosive play potential. With the linebacker group and the speed in the secondary, Indiana’s defense looks very competitive and will give the Hawkeyes tough looks all day.
The Hawkeye defense has a deep secondary. Matt Hankins and Jack Koerner are the leaders, although all five guys have multiple years of starting experience. The unit ranked sixth in total defense last season only giving up 314 total yards and 16 points per game. The majority of the yards given up were through the air, as Iowa’s defensive formations are designed to keep everything in front of them. The Hawks ranked eighth in explosive plays allowed last season. They gave up a mere 21 plays of 20 yards or more through eight games. Although Indiana wasn’t predominantly an explosive-play team, they have the weapons to do so. It isn’t in Iowa’s defensive game plan to give up those kinds of plays. With familiar faces in the Iowa secondary, this trend will likely continue into the matchup against Indiana and play a role in limiting big-play potential.
What to Expect in Iowa vs Indiana
Indiana had a unique statistic last season in that their points off turnover margin was plus 41. The Hoosiers averaged two-and-a-half turnovers per game with 17 interceptions on the season. Of their 231 total points scored, 65 came following turnovers. While that’s an incredible statistic, sustaining a 28% clip of total points coming off of turnovers is a very difficult trend to maintain. There’s likely nowhere to go but down in this category for the Hoosiers this season.
Both Indiana and Iowa have a lot of upside potential heading into the 2021 season, but there’s uncertainty in each team. Penix threw only four interceptions last season, but quite frankly, some of those passes were dangerous. He has a good arm and elusive running abilities, but he put himself in risky situations a handful of times last year. With Iowa’s defensive skill set, Penix won’t be able to get away with some of those throws.
On the other hand, the Indiana defense has two high-profile playmakers with Williams and McFadden. Their abilities to close in on the ball will make things tough for Petras. The Iowa quarterback had a great second half of last season, but his limited experience with only one shortened season under his belt leaves question marks. Against a stout defensive group, the Hawkeye offense will be tested early and often. As one of only five Top-25 matchups in week one, this game in Iowa City might come down to the final possession.