MADISON -- Gary Andersen has heard plenty of stories from former Wisconsin coach and current Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez about playing Iowa: the close games, the physical nature of both teams, the rivalry between the schools.
And while Andersen, in his first year as the Badgers' head coach, will obviously be experiencing his first Wisconsin-Iowa game Saturday, many of his players are in the same boat.
The teams haven't played since the Badgers won, 31-30, in Iowa City during the 2010 season because conference expansion split the rivals into separate divisions, making Saturday a long-awaited matchup with the Heartland Trophy on the line.
"I think our kids are very excited about the opportunity," Andersen said. "It goes way back, and a lot of our kids have played against Iowa. It's been a couple years since they have, but it's gone back and forth and been very physical, and I expect nothing different."
It's a big enough game without the rivalry aspect. The Badgers are fighting to stay a game back of Ohio State in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten, and the Hawkeyes are still battling to chase second place in the Legends Division.
Even though the majority of Wisconsin players haven't experienced this rivalry, many grew up watching it and understand the importance of keeping the trophy in Madison.
"Everyone realizes how good this rivalry's been over the past few years, even though we didn't get a chance to play them the past two years," quarterback Joel Stave said. "It's been fun watching it on TV when I was younger and just getting a chance to be a part of it now is really exciting."
Change of pace
Spread offenses have dominated Wisconsin's schedule to this point in the season. This week will be much different.
The Badgers expect Iowa to lean on its physicality in Saturday's game, a similar style to what Wisconsin sees when it faces itself every day in practice.
"That's college football these days," Andersen said. "You have to get ready to defend a lot of different things. Defensively this week, it's the opportunity to line up against a very good offensive line and match strength on strength a little bit, if you will. We have a little bit of an advantage playing against ourselves.
"Iowa's a very stiff challenge. On the offensive side of the football, we both obviously want to run the ball. Play-action is a big part of the throw game on both sides. Defenses are both physical."
Iowa's running backs are a major part of the Hawkeyes' physical identity. Mark Weisman has rushed for 100-plus yards in four games this season and has averaged 4.9 yards per carry, while junior Damon Bullock has also been productive this year.
The two remind Andersen of Wisconsin's talented group of backs. He said they always appear to get a few more yards than what seems available on a given run.
"They're tough, physical backs," Andersen said. "They like contact. It's one of the first things you see when you watch them. When they get to the next level, it's not just going to be, ‘Ok, it's time for you to tackle me.' You've got to own the right (to) be deserving of making a tackle."
It's the type of game Wisconsin's front seven will likely thrive in, though, particularly players like inside linebacker Chris Borland.
Borland suffered a hamstring injury in Wisconsin's win over Illinois two weeks ago. Although he could be limited in practice this week, the senior said he expects to play Saturday.
"I think we're built for (this type of matchup)," Borland said. "It's kind of an old-school, physical, Big Ten game. They like to do what they do. There's no secrets. There's no deception. It's pretty much line up and play, and I look forward to that."
Badgers prefer early kickoff time
Despite some perceived disadvantages for a road team playing in an 11 a.m. kickoff game, Andersen believes Saturday's early start time will benefit the Badgers.
Wisconsin hasn't had an early kickoff since Week 2 against Tennessee Tech, and this week will be its first road game that has begun before 7 p.m.
Andersen said Wisconsin's hotel is about 45 minutes from the Hawkeyes' stadium, and the team will take its usual team walk before getting on the bus, but he also described the Badgers as an "early-rising team."
"We were up this morning and had early-morning meetings with the kids, so I don't think that will be a factor," Andersen said Monday. "You get to wake up and go play, which is nice. We're trying to have a little information for them that they can watch as they move on down the road for 45 or 50 minutes. I'm glad the kickoff's at 11. I think it'll be good for our kids."