- Adam Rittenberg, College Football
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The showdown will happen: Wisconsin at Indiana, next Saturday in Bloomington, a berth in the Big Ten title game likely at stake.
If you expected it before the season, board a plane to Las Vegas. For the rest of us, it comes as a huge surprise.
Indiana stayed very much alive in the chase to represent the Leaders Division at the Big Ten title game Dec. 1 in Indianapolis, holding off Iowa 24-21 at Memorial Stadium. After a miserable start, the Hoosiers made more plays on both sides of the ball and recorded their first Big Ten home win since 2009. They've won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time since 2007, the last time they reached a bowl game.
Kevin Wilson's squad didn't get an offensive explosion Saturday, but wide receiver Cody Latimer stepped up in a big way with seven catches for 113 yards and three touchdowns, including a 30-yard catch with 10:58 left that proved to be the game-winner. After quarterback Nate Sudfeld had provided a boost in recent weeks, Cameron Coffman proved to be the more effective signal caller against Iowa, competing 21 of 32 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Wilson was right: Coffman and Sudfeld are very even, and both can be effective at times.
Indiana should have had more than 24 points but made several mistakes in Iowa territory, including its first lost fumble of the season in the fourth quarter by Stephen Houston.
Yet the Hoosiers (4-5, 2-3) were the better team and showed it, especially on defense, a unit that has struggled much of the season. Coordinator Mike Ekeler called out the defense after last week's win against Illinois, and his crew answered, holding Iowa to just 14 offensive points (the Hawkeyes had a pick-six by Christian Kirksey against Sudfeld) and 5 of 14 third-down conversions. The Hawkeyes finished with only 96 rush yards on 30 carries.
Iowa (4-5, 2-3) got the start it needed, jumping ahead 14-0 behind a James Vandenberg touchdown pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley (7 catches, 131 yards) and Kirksey's 18-yard interception return. Vandenberg completed 10 of 15 passes in the first half, but made a costly error in the third quarter, throwing an interception in the end zone. It has been a nightmarish senior season for Vandenberg (21-of-34, 251 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) despite some bright spots in the past two weeks.
The offense gave Iowa a chance with the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter, but the defense couldn't get off of the field. Coffman converted two key third downs to tight end Ted Bolser, and wide receiver Kofi Hughes (6 catches, 110 yards) had a big afternoon.
Iowa has lost three straight and must win two of its final three to get bowl-eligible.
Indiana is building its program, but in this year's Big Ten, it finds itself with a tremendous opportunity. The Hoosiers control their own fate in repping the Leaders division, and a win next week against Wisconsin will move them much closer to Lucas Oil Stadium.
The showdown will happen: Wisconsin at Indiana, next Saturday in Bloomington, a berth in the Big Ten title game likely at stake.If you expected it before the season, board a plane to Las Vegas.