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Behind Enemy Lines: Iowa Hawkeyes

The Illini head to Iowa City with their eyes on their fifth straight win, and first win at Kinnick this millenium.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

We caught up with Jonah Parker from Black Heart Gold Pants to check in on how are neighbors to the west are doing after a big win, and to see how they are feeling heading into a matchup with the streaking Illini.

TCR: I’ll be in attendance and visiting Kinnick for the second time, any tailgating or gameday tips for the Illini faithful crossing the Mississippi?

BHGP: Buddy, if it’s tailgating tips you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve got a running document that is pretty all encompassing (https://www.blackheartgoldpants.com/platform/amp/2019/8/19/20811603/tailgaters-guide-to-iowa-city-revised-2019-edition-kinnick-stadium-wave-hawkeyes-football-bhgp), but the TL;DR version is this: leave your car on the east side of the river, find Melrose Avenue and enjoy the scene. The weather should be decent this weekend and despite the few outliers, you shouldn’t have any trouble outside some good-natured ribbing. Exchange some pleasantries, share a drink and avoid talking about Deon Thomas.

TCR: Iowa is 7-3 and having an incredibly Iowa season. Is the tone one of satisfaction after beating ISU, grabbing a top-10 win, and achieving a likely 8- or 9-win regular season on the horizon, or is there still some hand wringing after (likely) missing out on a very real opportunity for a trip to Indy?

BHGP: It’s most definitely the latter. Despite overachieving basically every preseason expectation, the sentiment is certainly one of missed opportunities. The offense has been borderline inept at times and totally wasted another great Phil Parker defense. The fanbase seems far more focused on the one-score losses to Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin than the two wins over ranked teams.

TCR: Can we get a ruling on rushing the field vs. Minnesota.....

BHGP: Hard pass, imo. Iowa was favored. However, in Iowa fans’ defense, I think it was much more rubbing it in Minnesota fans’ noses than actual organic joy over a win against them. Who hates Minnesota?

TCR: Get us up to speed with Nate Stanley. He’s been a top 10-ish QB on everyone’s draft board for 2+ years, his numbers are pretty good again, he’s going down as an all time Iowa QB for passing stats. But every time I watch him it always seems more difficult than it should. What’s the fanbase’s pulse on Nate Stanley and this offense and has it changed at all in his final campaign?

BHGP: Are you sure you aren’t a closet Iowa fan? You’ve just nailed it. He’s going to leave Iowa City as one of the best ever statistically. He’s never lost to Iowa State or Minnesota and if he can close out the season with two more wins he won’t have lost to Illinois or Nebraska either. But as you said, he makes it looks so hard.

He has very limited pocket awareness and despite his size, is not mobile. If things go his way pre-snap he has all the tools, but when plays break down or nobody is open, he’s in trouble. While he’s had great performances in the past against Iowa State and Ohio State, he’s looked miserable in big games against Penn State and Wisconsin.

Bottom line: if Illinois can get pressure on Stanley, he will struggle. If they don’t manufacture the pressure, he has the tools to win the game through the air.

TCR: Epenesa is terrifying and the defense has been top notch. What’s the one soft spot or aspect of the defense that makes you nervous headed into a potential letdown spot, if any?

BHGP: Phil Parker’s defense is predicated on allowing opponents to dink and dunk their way down the field under the assumption eventually they’ll make a mistake that costs them a turnover or force a punt (ironically, the Iowa offense is built exactly the opposite assuming they’ll play essentially mistake free, much to the dismay of Hawkeye fans).

That typically leads to plenty of yards given up but a good scoring defense and a lot of turnovers. This year, however, the turnovers haven’t been there. Despite that, the defense has been stellar at keeping opponents out of the end zone.

The biggest concern would be for Illinois to hit on a couple explosive plays. Iowa State was able to pick on some young defensive backs early in the year for big plays. Having a pass rush from Epenesa limits those opportunities, but if they land when they’re there, it’s a real problem given Iowa’s woes on offense.

TCR: Can you promise the Hawkeyes won’t 63-0 us again this year? Any fear at all going into this one? Is my under 46.5 bet safe? Score Prediction?

BHGP: I can promise this will not be a 63-0 game. This feels like a major trap game given the win against Minnesota last week and a matchup with Nebraska next week (not that they present a more difficult opponent, but given the obnoxiousness of their fanbase I think most would consider it a bigger game). Illinois is riding some serious momentum and I think playing with more confidence than I’ve seen in some time, so it definitely has Iowa fans a little nervous. That said, I think being senior day this Iowa team comes out with plenty of fire and is able to get it done. Iowa wins but doesn’t cover and your under bet is safe.

Iowa 24, Illinois 13

Big thanks to Jonah at BHGP. You can see our responses to their questions right here. Make sure to check out BHGP and follow them on twitter @BHGP for all things Hawkeyes You can also check a matchup preview from them this week focused on #LovieBall.