The No. 18/No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers host the Iowa Hawkeyes Saturday morning at Camp Randall Stadium hoping to retain the Heartland Trophy and gain significant momentum in the Big Ten West division.
Wisconsin is 3-1 after defeating the Hawaii Warriors 28-0 in the Badgers' non-conference finale last Saturday. The running game made another stride -- gaining 326 yards on the ground. Redshirt freshman running back Taiwan Deal ran for 147 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. Defensively, the Badgers limited the Rainbow Warriors to 255 yards and shut out its second opponent in three games.
Iowa comes into Camp Randall Stadium for the first time since 2009, looking for its first 5-0 start since that season as well. The Hawkeyes boast a very impressive run defense, allowing only 84 yards per game on the ground. Their offense is led by quarterback C.J. Beathard, who's completed 68 percent of his passes while also rushing for over five yards per carry.
It should be a slugfest starting on Saturday morning, as both teams emulate that smash mouth, physical style of Big Ten football play. Bovada currently has Wisconsin has a 6-point favorite.
For more on Iowa and their rebounding from a disappointing 2014, check out Andrew Rosin's preview:
Last season did not live up to those expectations. Iowa came out flat against FCS Northern Iowa, needed two touchdowns in the last two minutes to get past Ball State, and lost at home to eventual 2-10 Iowa State. Wins started to come until a 51-14 shelling by Minnesota. After a win over mediocre Illinois, Iowa dropped its last three games starting with the Badgers and each uglier than the last. Malaise came over the program and its fans, season-ticket sales for 2015 dwindled and many lamented or bemoaned Ferentz's still-enormous buyout.
So what changed since January to bring Iowa into Madison this weekend after an undefeated non-conference run? It's not the coaching staff; they're basically the same guys. It can't be an offensive line that lost two players to the NFL, including last year's Outland Trophy winner, Brandon Scherff. It can't be a defense that returned seven starters and also lost two tackles to the NFL.
Nope, it has to be the quarterback, C.J. Beathard, who was unconventionally named the starter over incumbent fifth-year senior Jake Rudock very shortly after the bowl loss.
Beathard's not a Heisman candidate, but he is dynamic. He's completing passes at 68.2-percent clip and getting a healthy 8.7 yards per attempt (25th in FBS). He has six touchdowns to one interception, with a long of 81 yards. Then there's his ability to make and extend plays with his feet, which has gotten him three rushing touchdowns. In short, Iowa now has a quarterback that can win it games.
Combine Iowa's offensive transition from boring to "fun" with a salty defense that, like Wisconsin's, ranks in the top 20 or better in several categories and gives up just 17.8 points per game (to Wisconsin's 9.5), and you have a team entering conference play with a swagger not seen since, well, the last time the Hawkeyes were here.
Read below for the game's complete viewing information.
Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers | Saturday, Oct. 3 | Noon ET / 11 a.m. CT | Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
Live stream: The game can be live streamed on WatchESPN.com
Mobile: WatchESPN mobile app for iOS and Android phones.
TV crew: Steve Levy (play-by-play), Brock Huard (analyst), Shannon Spake (sideline reporter)
Radio: Badger Sports Network; Satellite: Sirius 136, XM 196; Mobile: iHeartRadio app (WIBA)
Radio crew: Matt Lepay (play-by-play), Mike Lucas & Mark Tauscher (analysts), Patrick Herb (sideline reporter)
Odds: Wisconsin -6, 45 o/u