Iowa football 2023 early opponent preview: Northwestern

John Steppe
Editor’s note: This is ninth in a 12-part series previewing Iowa’s 2023 football opponents.
IOWA CITY — At Northwestern’s picturesque, glass-enclosed Ryan Fieldhouse along Lake Michigan, a metaphorical gust of change appears to be hitting.
Longtime head coach Pat Fitzgerald has been fired amid hazing allegations. The hazing, according to the Daily Northwestern student newspaper, included alleged sexual harassment. Some former players also told the Daily Northwestern of a “culture of enabling racism.”
Before the Daily’s reports, Northwestern was prepared to give Fitzgerald a two-week suspension without pay. After the details became public, NU fired Fitzgerald.
A lawsuit may follow — Fitzgerald’s lawyer told the Chicago Tribune he’s “exploring potential breach-of-contract claims” — and other question marks still linger, but one thing seems certain.
The Northwestern team that will face Iowa on Nov. 4 at Wrigley Field will be different from past Northwestern teams Iowa has seen.
David Braun, who arrived in January from North Dakota State to serve as defensive coordinator, will be the interim head coach.
From a football standpoint, Northwestern already was experiencing significant changes to the roster via the transfer portal.
Quarterback Ben Bryant transferred in the spring from Cincinnati, where he started 11 games last year. Bryant completed 61 percent of his passes and threw 21 touchdowns versus seven interceptions.
Bryant will have the benefit of throwing to wide receiver A.J. Henning, who transferred from Michigan. Henning, a former four-star recruit, had 25 catches for 198 yards in three seasons with the Wolverines.
Now that Evan Hull is in the NFL, Cam Porter is expected to take the reins at running back. Porter averaged 3.3 yards per carry as Northwestern’s No. 2 back last year.
The Wildcats struggled defensively last year, finishing 12th in the Big Ten with 28.3 points allowed per game. Linebacker Bryce Gallagher and defensive back Rod Heard are among key returning players as Northwestern looks to improve upon its 2022 mark.
Northwestern football already seemed to have a downward trajectory before the hazing scandal, going from a 7-2 season in 2020 to 3-9 in 2021 and 1-11 in 2022.
Iowa vs. Northwestern: 3 things to watch
Can transfers Bryant and Henning breathe life into the Northwestern offense? Especially without Hull in the backfield anymore, Northwestern will need a reliable passing attack to be competitive in 2023.
How cohesive do the Wildcats look? Interim head coach David Braun has a challenging task as he looks to bring together a team he largely did not recruit amid a polarizing hazing scandal.
Does Wrigley Field look like Kinnick Stadium East? Iowa fans have historically turned out well for games at Northwestern. Now with the game at iconic Wrigley Field instead of less-iconic Ryan Field, this could be an even more appealing road game for Hawkeye fans.
2023 prognosis
Iowa-Northwestern has been a competitive series in recent years, but even without Northwestern’s offseason upheaval, this likely would have been a favorable matchup for the Hawkeyes.

Latest Player Notes

If that really was Drake Maye’s last game in Chapel Hill, it provided a fitting full-circle ending

UPDATED NOVEMBER 13, 2023 2:49 PMHere was Drake Maye in the middle of it all late Saturday night, in the middle of the kind ...

Shedeur Sanders closing in on CU Buffs single-season records through pain of all the sacks and hits

PUBLISHED November 13, 2023 at 12:38 p.m. | UPDATED: November 13, 2023 at 12:40 p.m.BOULDER — Shedeur Sanders is closing ...

Tenth Anniversary of Kick Six: Inside video, "Official" look at Historic Iron Bowl Shocker

Published Nov. 13, 2023, 6:00 a.m.By Creg Stephenson See and hear history behind Kick Six (excuse the ads, but this is ...

Goodman: Jimbo Fisher is out and Nick Saban wins again

Updated: Nov. 13, 2023, 10:00 a.m.|By Joseph GoodmanJimbo Fisher is out at Texas A&M, which goes to show that even when a ...

Huard on Huskies: Why a win over No. 10 Oregon St would be huge

The No. 5 UW Huskies’ quest to make the College Football Playoff went through the two-time defending Pac-12 champions on ...

USC’s loss to Oregon exposes clear flaws in program-building up front

EUGENE, Ore. — In January, Lincoln Riley was on the sidelines at SoFi for the College Football Playoff championship game, ...

Two years after winning school-record 12 games, Brady Hoke out as Aztecs football coach

Brady Hoke is out as San Diego State’s football coach.SDSU released a statement Monday morning saying that Hoke is retiring, ...

Oregon’s Bo Nix named Pac-12 offensive player of the week for third time in 2023

Oregon’s Bo Nix earned his third weekly honor from the Pac-12.Nix, who went 23 of 31 for a season-high 412 yards with four ...

Oregon Ducks’ head coach Dan Lanning mentioned as a leading candidate for Texas A&M job

Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning has been mentioned as a leading candidate to replace Jimbo Fisher as coach of the Texas ...

After ‘tough day,’ Boise State AD searches for a football coach; defensive analyst promoted

Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey was on the job for less than a week the last time he began a search for a football ...
See More Player Notes