Rutgers (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) is coming off a 35-16 loss to No. 1 Ohio State this past Saturday. Holding a 9-7 lead at halftime, Rutgers was down just five points early in the fourth quarter before eventually losing to the nation’s top team.
Iowa is a tough match-up for Rutgers, given not just their similarities in style and personnel but the fact that there may not be a more physical team in the Power Five than the Hawkeyes.
In talking about Saturday’s game, the Big Ten Network’s Anthony Herron observed that Iowa and Rutgers are very similar in their approach. Iowa (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) checked in at No. 22 in the College Football Playoff rankings that were released this week.
“Between the two squads, Rutgers is a team that looks very similar,” Herron said on the Big Ten Network when talking about Iowa.
“Greg Schiano coaches very similarly to Kirk Ferentz. And I think between the two programs, they both value special teams at such a high level and both want to make sure they can punt and pin you down deep and and set their defense up in a position to play downhill with aggression.”
Herron is a former defensive lineman at Iowa who now is an analyst with the Big Ten Network.
Rutgers, with a top-five defense in the Big Ten, has a similar emphasis on physicality as Iowa. Both teams have strong defenses and will want to run the ball.
Special teams are important. Iowa’s Cooper DeJean, a defensive back who is also a special teams standout, has 238 punt return yards (on 20 return attempts) with a touchdown on the season.
A special teams play might make the difference in this one.
“And I think for Rutgers, the fact that they’re comfortable in a game like that actually provides a different sort of challenge for Iowa this week because of the Iowa offense hasn’t been in a position to really put pressure on the opponent,” Herron said.
“To have a passing attack that isn’t going to air the ball out that much, and Rutgers being comfortable, being risk averse, then, you know, Iowa is not going to be in as good a position.”