BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana nearly snapped No. 1 Ohio State's winning streak and challenged No. 6 Michigan State for more than three quarters on the Spartans' home turf last month.
The Hoosiers are tired of being close. They want a signature win, and they believe a third Top 10 matchup in six weeks, this time at home against No. 10 Iowa, provides the perfect opportunity.
"This is what we want, we want to play these (top-ranked) teams," Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. "We came up short in those two games, but we're not a team that felt like they outplayed us. We need to compete and finish games."
That's been the problem for a long time in Bloomington.
Since opening the season with four straight wins, the Hoosiers (4-4, 0-4 Big Ten) have lost four straight -- three in maddeningly frustrating fashion.
The Hawkeyes (8-0, 4-0) have positioned themselves as the Big Ten West favorite and as one of 10 remaining unbeaten teams that could become a surprise contender to make the College Football Playoff if they can finish off a perfect regular season.
But coach Kirk Ferentz knows this much: If the Hawkeyes lose focus this weekend, they could be in big trouble against a team that has already put a major scare into the conference's other two unbeaten teams.
"They played Ohio State in their opening (Big Ten) game, finished with first-and-goal on the 6-yard line, chance to score and tie the game. Came up a little bit short there," Ferentz said. "Most recently, before their bye, 28-26 with Michigan State up in East Lansing, so they played a really good game against an outstanding football team there, too. They're a very good football team."
One that's still looking for that elusive final piece to solve the bowl puzzle and could get the program back on the right track.
"We know our talent is right there," Indiana receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. said. "We just have to finish."
Here are some other things to watch Saturday:
TURNOVER TEST: Indiana and Iowa are two of the nation's best in taking care of the ball and two of the most opportunistic teams, too. The Hoosiers have only had eight turnovers this season, while the Hawkeyes have nine. Iowa is tied for the league lead in turnover margin at plus-10, while the Hoosiers are fourth at plus-six -- good enough numbers to put them among the top 20 nationally.
PERFECT PAIR: Iowa has been 9-0 only one time in school history -- in 2009. Quarterback C.J. Beathard isn't piling up gaudy numbers, but he is the first quarterback in school history to win his first nine starts.
HOWARD'S HEALTH: Indiana RB Jordan Howard started the season with four straight games of 140-plus yards rushing. Then he injured his left ankle against Ohio State. He missed two games after that, and then ran for 78 in his return at Michigan State. A bye week gave Howard extra time to get healthy, and coach Kevin Wilson says there have been no setbacks. If Howard finds his early-season form, it would give Indiana a huge boost against a run defense that has allowed 85.8 yards per game and one TD on the ground.
DE-FENSE: Yes, the Hoosiers have a potent, efficient offense. But this week, they're up against a defense that can do more than stop the run. Iowa is ranked in the top 10 nationally in run defense, scoring defense, total defense, points allowed and red-zone defense. CB Desmond King also has seven interceptions, tied for No. 1 in the nation.
SPECIAL SALUTE: Indiana will honor veterans this weekend with its annual Salute To Service. It will be more than just a tribute to military personnel. Walk-on linebacker James Halford, who is 26 and spent four years on active duty in the Marines, also will be honored.