Game time: 3:30 p.m. ET; Sept. 4, 2021
Venue: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
Where to watch: BTN
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Iowa -3.5; O/U 45; ML: Iowa -170, Indiana +150
BetMGM: Iowa -3.5; O/U 45; ML: Iowa -169, Indiana +140
FanDuel: Iowa -3.5; O/U 44.5; ML: Iowa -184, Indiana +146
2020 season record
Indiana: 6-2 (6-1) Lost Outback Bowl to Ole Miss
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Indiana - Iowa preview and analysis
You know things are wild in the Big Ten when we’re talking about a top-25 matchup between Indiana and Iowa.
I’m not sure if that’s more the fact that it’s an important Big Ten matchup this early in the season, or that it’s a top-25 matchup between Indiana and Iowa.
But these aren’t your dad’s Hoosiers and Hawkeyes anymore. If you’re looking for fun, high-octane offense with a sprinkle of defense, we’re not sure how you ended up on this matchup, but if it was five years ago, we’d give you a map and tell you to be on your merry way.
Alas, it will be No. 17 Indiana traveling to Kinnick Stadium to face No. 18 Iowa Saturday in an early conference matchup that could very quickly determine how the landscape in the Big Ten will shape out.
It has become a wild four-year ride since Tom Allen became the full-time coach at Indiana in 2017. From the moment he coached the Foster Farms Bowl in 2016, he has created a turnaround in the Hoosier State the likes of which “Hoosiers” could’ve been turned into a football movie.
After two 5-7 seasons, Indiana has reached consecutive bowl games. Unfortunately, both have been losses, and both by one score. The Hoosiers lost the Outback Bowl to Ole Miss, 26-20, and one can only wonder what bowl they would’ve been in had they completed that 35-7 comeback against Ohio State last year. The incredible 6-1 regular season put the Hoosiers as high as No. 7 in the AP poll, their highest ranking since being No. 4 in 1967. That was also the last time Indiana reached the Rose Bowl.
But if you’re IU, there’s probably no greater chance for an Indiana football team to win the Big Ten than this one. Junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. returns for his second full season after throwing 14 touchdowns to four interceptions. Indiana put the ball in his hands a lot and he saw a dip in his completion percentage (56.4 from 68.8 the year prior), but him leading the way is going to make for an exciting Indiana team.
Penix will also have top receiver Ty Fryfogle returning for his final season. Fryfogle had 721 yards on only 37 catches to go along with seven touchdowns. And yes, he’s on the Biletnikoff Award watch list. A full season could prove fruitful for Fryfogle this season, as well as his draft stock.
Indiana will have their home opener Sept. 11 against Idaho, followed by another important showdown Sept. 18 at home against No. 8 Cincinnati. The Hoosiers will resume conference play Oct. 2 against No. 19 Penn State, and then a week off before facing Michigan State.
But much like what could’ve been had Indiana ran the table, what if Iowa didn’t lose to Northwestern by one point in the second game of the season? It could’ve been an Indiana-Iowa Big Ten title game last year, and we would’ve been here for it.
Despite starting 0-2 with one-score losses to Purdue and the Wildcats, the Hawkeyes ended the year with six straight wins, most in dominant fashion. Unfortunately, Iowa had its final two games of the season -- at home against Michigan, and the Music City Bowl against Missouri -- canceled due to COVID.
But the Iowa offense, which averaged 31.8 PPG last season, returns nearly every playmaker after that strong finish to 2020, including junior quarterback Spencer Petras and junior running back Tyler Goodson. Petras was the reason Iowa won those last six; after throwing three interceptions in the loss to Northwestern, Petras threw eight touchdowns and two interceptions following that. It was primarily a short passing game for Iowa, but that’s why the Hawkeyes relied on Goodson.
Goodson and now-NFL running back Mekhi Sargent combined for 1,194 yards and 14 touchdowns to lead a stellar Iowa running game. Goodson was already the featured back, but he should see an increased role and could challenge for 1,000 yards. If the Hawkeyes want to win this, they’ll need to test the Indiana secondary.
Kirk Ferentz is entering his 23rd season coaching Iowa. He’s no stranger to Big Ten championships and big bowl game appearances. If he wants to get to another one, this is the first big test to see how this Iowa team handles pressure.
Iowa won’t have to worry with many road games to start; the Hawkeyes’ biggest one is Sept. 11 at No. 7 Iowa State.
Indiana hasn’t beaten Iowa since 2012, and Iowa comes in having won the last three meetings. The intrigue of the Hoosiers is why I feel confident they get it done. Has Penix taken that next step to show real improvement? Will that defense continue to show that stretch of dominance? We feel inclined to say yes right now. All it takes is one knee injury to screw everything up, so let’s not get to that point. Hoosiers win 31-24.
Iowa has won seven of the last 10 meetings straight up.
The last six games have gone over.
Indiana is 6-4 against the spread in the last 10 meetings.
Players to watch
Indiana: With Stevie Scott III now playing on Sunday, the backfield turns to Tim Baldwin Jr. The Hoosiers running back had 141 yards on 22 carries a season ago.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes lost leading sack getters Chauncey Golston and Daviyon Nixon to the NFL, so Jack Koerner becomes the leader on this defense. Koerner had three interceptions in eight games in 2020.
Statistical leaders from 2020
Passing: Michael Penix Jr. -- 1,645 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Stevie Scott III -- 561 yards, 10 TD
Receiving: Ty Fryfogle -- 721 yards, 7 TD
Defense: Micah McFadden -- 6 sacks
Passing: Spencer Petras -- 1,569 yards, 9 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Tyler Goodson -- 762 yards, 7 TD
Receiving: Ihmir Smith-Marsette -- 345 yards, 4 TD
Defense: Chauncey Golston & Daviyon Nixon -- 5.5 sacks
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