Wildcats expecting different trip to Kinnick


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As competitors, Iowa and Northwestern have respect for one another.

But to suggest the Hawkeyes and Wildcats don’t share a rivalry might be too naïve.

Since Northwestern’s Rose Bowl season in 1995, the two schools have met 12 times with the Wildcats emerging victorious in seven of those contests.

In fact, the Wildcats have won three of the past four meetings, including the last two in Kinnick Stadium.

As Northwestern makes its second-straight trip to Iowa City in two years, the seasonal script is slightly different. The Hawkeyes stand ranked No. 8 with a 9-0 overall record.

From watching film of Iowa, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald described the Hawkeyes as having an opportunistic defense, combined with an efficient offense. And while the Wildcats have won their last two trips to Kinnick Stadium, he understands past success doesn’t mean much entering Saturday’s contest.

“I think from a standpoint of tough environments to play, Kinnick ranks up there — if not the toughest, one of the toughest in this league,” Fitzgerald said during the Big Ten football teleconference on Tuesday. “I think we’ve just been very fortunate. We’ve had a couple of balls bounce our way, and we’ve made a few plays in our last couple of trips out there, but I don’t think there’s anything secretive or magical about it.”

One glaring observation the fourth-year Wildcat head coach made has been the difference of play between the two teams in the fourth quarter this season.

While Iowa has proven to be a resilient second-half team, Northwestern has had struggles late in games. Perhaps this point was best illustrated last week at Ryan Field, when the Wildcats surrendered 21 unanswered points to Penn State and lost, 34-13.

“We’ve put ourselves in position, and we just haven’t made plays,” Fitzgerald said.

Big game in Big Ten this weekend

If the Hawkeyes manage to defeat Northwestern on Saturday, Iowa fans might want to tune their televisions to the battle happening at Beaver Stadium between No. 11 Penn State and No. 15 Ohio State, which were conference co-champions last season.

The last time the two met, the Nittany Lions left Ohio Stadium in Columbus with a 13-6 win, clinching a trip to the Rose Bowl to play USC.

This weekend’s game could potentially play a large role in where the Hawkeyes end up bowling this winter.

If Iowa and Penn State both win, then because the Hawkeyes own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Nittany Lions, all Iowa would need is one win in either of its final two games to clinch, at the very worst, the Big Ten’s automatic BCS berth for the 2010 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

“We’re playing a heck of a football team in Ohio State, and we’re going to try to play as well as we can,” Penn State head coach Joe Paterno said during the Big Ten football teleconference on Tuesday.

However, if Iowa and Ohio State win on Saturday, then both teams would remain in control of their own destiny towards a Big Ten championship, which would make next week’s battle at the Horseshoe between the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes all the more significant.

“I know our guys look forward to it,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said about traveling to Penn State during the Big Ten football teleconference on Tuesday. “They love the good, hard clean play, they love the noise, they love the excitement, and we know we’re playing against a great team.”

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