Brown: Iowa will have first rated showdown since 2010

Rick Brown
Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri runs the ball against Illinois on Saturday.

Saturday will mark the first time since the 2010 season that Iowa has played in a football game with two ranked teams on the field.

That will be the case at Ryan Field, when the Hawkeyes visit Northwestern. Iowa, 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten, is ranked 17th in both the  Associated Press and Amway/USA Today Coaches polls released Sunday. The Wildcats, 5-1 and 1-1, are 20th in the AP poll and 21st in the Coaches poll.

The last time Iowa was part of a game with two ranked teams was on Nov. 20, 2010. No. 8 Ohio State beat No. 21 Iowa at Kinnick Stadium 20-17.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 11 a.m. It will be televised by ABC in the Big Ten footprint, and ESPN2 everywhere else.

The Rudock factor

Northwestern got steamrolled by Michigan in a Top-25 duel Saturday in Ann Arbor, 38-0. Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock completed 17 of 23 passes for 179 yards. He also rushed for a touchdown. The Wolverines jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.

This was the Wildcats’ most one-sided defeat since losing at Iowa — and Rudock — by a 48-7 margin in 2014. The Hawkeyes got out to a 24-0 first-quarter lead in that Nov. 1, 2014 game. Rudock completed 12 of 19 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown.

“A year ago in Iowa City, I thought that we got hit and lost momentum early, and then we didn’t respond,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We didn’t respond at all. I thought (Saturday), at times, we responded… especially on defense.”

Brown: Canzeri's desire rings true in historic effort

A grand accomplishment?

Jordan Canzeri has rushed for 697 yards at the midway point of the regular season. He’s on track to become the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Marcus Coker in 2011 (1,384). Coker averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Canzeri is currently at 5.3.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz often compares Canzeri to Fred Russell, who got a majority of the carries in the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Russell was 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds. Canzeri is listed at 5-9, 192.

Russell averaged 16.9 carries per game in 2002, when he gained 1,264 yards. That increased to 21.6 carries per game when he ran for 1,355 yards in 2003.

“If he had come back for another year, we’d have run the crap out of him again, too, just because he’s a good football player and that’s what we like doing,” Ferentz said.

Canzeri is currently averaging 22 carries per game, but 30.3 over the last three after his school-record 43 rushes on Saturday. He carried just five times in the season opener against Illinois State, when LeShun Daniels was the No. 1 back and gained 123 yards in 26 carries.

Jordan Canzeri powers Iowa past Illinois, to 6-0

Hard yards

Canzeri is coming off a career-best 256 rushing yards against Illinois. Northwestern sophomore Justin Jackson rushed for a career-low 25 yards in 12 carries at Michigan. Both players will face good rushing defenses Saturday.

Iowa is fifth nationally in rushing defense, allowing 78 yards per game. Jackson, a sophomore, has averaged 110.1 yards per game this season. His 150 carries are 106 more than anyone else on the team.

Canzeri, who is 12th nationally in rushing yards, will look for his fourth straight 100-yard game and fifth of the season against a Northwestern defense that is yielding 131.3 yards per game. Wildcat opponents have averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Iowa is averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

Hitting home runs

Canzeri’s 75-yard touchdown run and a 49-yard C.J. Beathard to Jerminic Smith completion gave Iowa 11 plays of 40 yards or more this season. In the first three years Greg Davis was the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator, Iowa gained at least 40 yards on 12 plays in 2014, nine plays in 2013 and four plays in 2012.

Iowa status report: Jerminic Smith has breakout game

Balance on offense

Iowa is averaging 201.2 yards rushing and 208.2 yards passing through six games. Of the 416 plays the Hawkeyes have run from scrimmage, 252 have been rushes. That offense will go against a Northwestern defense that is allowing 131.3 yards on the ground and 138.1 yards through the air this season.

Iowa is also converting on third down 43 percent of the time (35 of 81). Northwestern opponents are converting just 24.7 percent of the time (22 of 89).