Two teams with Big Ten title aspirations will meet in a critical season opener when No. 17 Indiana plays at No. 18 Iowa on Saturday afternoon in Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes and Hoosiers each won six conference games during a shortened 2020 season. Iowa won its final six games of the 2020 season for its longest win streak in Big Ten play since 2015.
“I don’t know how good we’ll be this year, but I can say I really like our football team,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I like the people on it. I like the way they have trained, the way they have worked going back to January, and the attitude that they have displayed on a really consistent basis.”
It’s just the second meeting between the two schools as AP Top 25 teams. The only other time both schools met while ranked, No. 10 Iowa beat No. 25 Indiana 38-21 at Kinnick Stadium during the 1991 season.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes are led by preseason first-team All-American center Tyler Linderbaum, running back Tyler Goodson and quarterback Spencer Petras. Goodson finished third in the Big Ten in rushing with 762 yards last season, while Petras, entering his second year as a starter, posted a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 8-2 during Iowa’s six-game win streak to close the 2020 season.
“Spencer wasn’t afforded the luxury of going through a spring practice as our starter or our normal preseason practice in the month of August,” Ferentz said. “So I thought he did remarkably well considering the obstacles that he had to overcome.”
On defense, Iowa returns its entire starting secondary on a defense that ranked third in the conference in interceptions last season with 11.
Indiana is coming off a breakthrough 2020 season under fifth-year coach Tom Allen, finishing 6-2 with its most Big Ten wins since 1987. The Hoosiers are ranked in the preseason Top 25 for the first time since 1969.
“The thing you learn is the full value of staying through the process, and how to get your team to perform,” Allen said. “It’s all about consistent performance and how you get that, whether it’s through high expectations, low expectations or everything in between.”
On offense, Indiana returns eight starters, including junior All-Big Ten quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who is back to 100 percent after rehabbing a torn ACL suffered on Nov. 28 against Maryland. Penix staying healthy will be one of the keys to the Hoosiers achieving greater heights this season. Indiana is 10-2 the last two seasons when Penix starts at quarterback and 4-5 when other QBs start under center.
“As far as the trust level, I trust my knee, I trust that everything is OK,” Penix said. “The trainers have been doing a great job getting me back on the field, and I’m 100 percent confident that I’m going to have a great season this year.”
On defense, Indiana will bring back eight starters as well, including a pair of preseason second-team All-Americans, linebacker Micah McFadden and cornerback Tiawan Mullen. The Hoosiers led the Big Ten in interceptions (17) and sacks (25) last year. IU’s defense will be playing under a new coordinator this year, former Georgia defensive backs coach Charlton Warren, after former defensive coordinator Kane Wommack left to take over the head coaching job at South Alabama.
“Our DNA on defense, it starts with takeaways,” Warren said. “Coach Allen has preached that when he was a coordinator here, and that’s something we focus on every single day in practice.”
–Field Level Media