- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa can still achieve all of its Big Ten goals despite an underwhelming start and an unsettled situation at quarterback.

Is this the week the Hawkeyes finally put things together?

Iowa (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) hosts Indiana (3-2, 0-1) on Saturday coming off a much-needed bye. Plus, losses by Nebraska and Wisconsin last weekend gave the Hawkeyes an early edge in a West race surprisingly topped by Northwestern.

“I’ve become a huge fan of bye weeks. I just think it gives you an opportunity to really step back and look at things a little bit and dissect a few things and try to just pinpoint a couple things that you want to focus on,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Watching everybody else sweat last Saturday was fun.”

The Hoosiers sandwiched a stunning win at Missouri around home losses to Bowling Green and Maryland. Indiana’s offense has been explosive at times, but its defense is among the worst in the Big Ten.

The Hoosiers are last in the league in both passing yards and touchdowns allowed.

If ever there was a week for Iowa to pick a quarterback, this is the one.

Junior Jake Rudock will get the start after missing most of the last two games with a leg injury. But sophomore C.J. Beathard will also play after impressing the coaching staff in Rudock’s absence.

The competition between Rudock and Beathard tops the list of key factors for Saturday’s matchup in Iowa City:

QB CONUNDRUM: Maybe the biggest reason why Iowa’s issues at quarterback are so pertinent is that the Hawkeyes look like they already have the kind of defense that can win the West. Iowa is 16th nationally at 17.2 points allowed per game, and just two of its last four opponents have scored offensive touchdowns. “Solid and strong as they always are. Legit on defense. They lost three great linebackers. They plugged three guys in, with their structure and defensive front, their coaching, hadn’t missed a beat,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said.

STOPPING COLEMAN: Iowa’ stellar rush defense will get its biggest test yet from Indiana star Tevin Coleman. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in seven straight games dating to last season, the longest such streak in the nation, and he’s had at least one rushing TD in 14 consecutive games. The Hawkeyes have allowed just two touchdown runs so far, the lowest total in the Big Ten. “He’s very shifty. He makes good cuts,” Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis said.

MARK FRESH-MAN: Iowa senior running back Mark Weisman found himself banged up during the latter stages of Big Ten play in 2013-13, partly because of his bruising running style and partly because Iowa used him so much. The Hawkeyes have reduced his workload so far in 2014. While that hurt their running game initially, it also left Weisman healthier than ever for league play. “No serious or even nagging little injuries like I’ve had in previous years. It’s definitely a good thing,” Weisman said.

HOOSIER DADDY: The perception might be that Iowa typically handles Indiana. But the Hoosiers have beaten the Hawkeyes three times since 2006 - and each win was a bad omen for Iowa. The Hawkeyes never finished above .500 in the last three seasons that included a loss to the Hoosiers, although Iowa sandwiched a four-game winning streak in between those defeats.

KICKIN’ IT: Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn has been a bit shaky of field goals, hitting just 5 of 8 so far. But Koehn’s power has been a pleasant surprise. He’s first in the nation with a touchback percentage of 79.2. That won’t help Indiana’s kickoff return team, which is next to last in the Big Ten at just 18.7 yards per try.


Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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