SOC - Iowa 2020
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I mean, all anyone is thinking about is 63-0, right? It's all Lovie talked about in press conferences this week. I'd say that 84% of Illini fans, when hearing the words "Illinois-Iowa in Champaign on Senior Day", thinks of 63-0. It was only two years ago.
So that's not a very fun place to start. Take me back to the Nebraska game and the good vibes while walking out of the press box. I don't want to think about Illinois vs. Iowa in Champaign on Senior Day.
But I will. Let's start with the Iowa defense. I think we were all very encouraged by our offense against Nebraska. With everyone back, it was clicking. The passing game, the running game - everything. That's the good news. The bad news: Iowa's defense is a tiny bit better than Nebraska's.
Here's the current SP+ ranking for the defenses we've faced this season. Keep in mind, this data still has a little bit of 2019 folded in since the Big Ten season is only 5-6 games old. But that's a feature, not a bug. It gives us a bigger picture (especially for a team like Wisconsin which has only played three games).
The defensive rankings:
And the remaining games:
Kids that's something us 47 year-olds like to call a Soul II Soul. Back to life. Back to reality. Back to the hear and now. Yeah.
Four straight poor defenses, and now two defenses which closely resemble Wisconsin. That's my big fear.
Actually, are those the four worst defenses in the conference? Now I need to do a little research. Here's the SP+ rating for every defense in the Big Ten:
Ohio State (14)
Michigan State (16)
Penn State (25)
How silly of me. No, those aren't the four worst defenses in the Big Ten. We're 12th. So they're 4 of the 5 worst defenses in the Big Ten.
Well, regardless, we have our statistic for tomorrow (and next week). Our rushing statistics have been impressive. But the last four games were against the 10th, 11th, 13th, and 14th-best defenses in the conference. And now we're playing #3 and #2. I'm not sure that goes very well for us.
Now, Iowa did just give up 338 yards to Nebraska (the week after Nebraska put up 382 yards on Illinois). So there's a little "if Nebraska can move the ball on Iowa, we can move the ball on Iowa" going on here. And on the flipside, Nebraska held Iowa to 322 yards the week after giving up 490 to Illinois. So if you just compare those two games, you can feel pretty good.
But if you're going to compare the games you have to acknowledge the five turnovers we grabbed against Nebraska (and the four times we fumbled, recovering all four). It was maybe the biggest Turnover Fairy game since I started using the term Turnover Fairy in 2011. We would have won anyway, but every bounce went our way.
So all of that sets up for a reality game tomorrow. At least in my mind. We just played our best game in a while. They just struggled with Nebraska and needed a late takeaway to win the game (Nebraska was at the Iowa 35 driving for the winning TD when Iowa forced a fumble). We're on this crazy +8 turnover run which is bound to dry up at some point (we're good at takeaways, but nobody is that good).
Which means I'm seeing that "oh, yeah, right" game. Line is 13.5, but I don't see us keeping this one within 20.
Iowa 38, Illinois 10