Will the return of Kain Colter restore Northwestern's offensive firepower?
Will getting Sean McEvilly back enable the Wildcats to shut down Iowa's running game?
Will Northwestern get off of its three-game shneid in Iowa City, where Pat Fitzgerald has won three of four in his coaching career?
The WildcatReport staff has the answers to those questions and more in this week's installment of our fearless predictions.
Aric "Hey There" DiLalla
Northwestern wins if... Colter provides a spark in his return to the lineup.
Northwestern loses if... it falls behind early. This team's confidence seems very fragile right now.
The bottom line: Northwestern has every reason to lose again -- poor quarterback play, a bad offensive line and no momentum -- but I think they'll stop the slide this weekend. Colter won't be stopped and the Cats grab a come-from-behind win.
Prediction: Northwestern 27 Iowa 24
Danny "Portlandia" Moran
Northwestern wins if... Colter can get the Cats moving on third down. Northwestern has gone 8-for-33 on third down with Trevor Siemian as the primary quarterback the past two weeks.
Northwestern loses if... they continue to take sacks. The Iowa defense only has eight sacks this season so if the combination of Colter and Siemian take those negative plays, it will be an indicator that this offense is still in trouble.
The bottom line: Who really knows what to make of this team right now? I like their chances containing Mark Weisman better with McEvilly back. I'm trusting NU's recent history against Iowa more than I am this team's performance the past couple weeks.
Prediction: Northwestern 23 Iowa 20
"Cool Hand" Luke Srodulski
Northwestern wins if... Colter is as accurate and effective as he was against Ohio State. In the short-pass game and the run game, he needs to make an impact.
Northwestern loses if... The front four can't contain Weisman. He's a bulldozer, the type of back who could run Northwestern over.
The bottom line: It's up in the air whether or not Colter can make that much of a change in this anemic offense. On the road against a constantly-improving Iowa team, I'm not so sure he can.
Prediction: Iowa 24 Northwestern 13
Louie "C.K." Vaccher
Northwestern wins if… Colter wakes Northwestern up from its two-week offensive siesta.
Northwestern loses if… the offensive line is really as bad as it has looked the last two weeks. Colter is as dynamic as any player that has ever worn purple, but he can't block for himself.
The bottom line: I've been waffling like an Eggo on this one. On the one hand, Northwestern has owned Iowa, and Colter and McEvilly will give the Cats a boost on both sides of the line of scrimmage. On the other hand…well, you saw the Minnesota game, didn't you?
Prediction: Iowa 27 Northwestern 24
Larry "Slick" Watts
Northwestern wins if... the offense can finally get back on track and the defense keeps improving.
Northwestern loses if... the running game gets shuts down and Cats are unable to establish a passing game.
The bottom line: Iowa is performing beyond expectations and Northwestern is in a downward spiral. Until last week, Iowa had not allowed a rushing touchdown all year, so the Cats must get production out of the QB position or it's going to be a long bus ride back from Iowa City.
Prediction: Iowa 31 Northwestern 17
Alex "Li'l" Wayne
Northwestern wins if… Colter is healthy enough to keep the Hawkeyes on edge and uncertain of what to do. That's just the first step before all the other elements of the Wildcats' game plan go as they're supposed to (e.g., winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, solid tackling, getting solid field position thanks to kick and punt returns, and winning the turnover margin).
Northwestern loses if… the status quo of predictable offense and porous defense continues, regardless of whether Colter is in action or not.
The bottom line: Before it looked like Colter might be back in action, I truthfully saw no way for the Wildcats to win this game. Even without Colter, benching Siemien or not letting him throw would be counter-productive anyway. The 2013 Big Ten race has to be written off but Siemien, Christian Jones, Tony Jones and Treyvon Green can use the experience in preparation for their senior seasons.
Prediction: Iowa 31 Northwestern 24