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GAME THREAD: Wisconsin vs. Iowa

Come watch along with us as the Badgers battle the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

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NCAA Football: Georgia State at Wisconsin Rick Wood-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the players we’ll be watching today:

Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel

Would you just look at it? IT’S BACK.

Some fun facts and semi-advanced stats:

  • Wisconsin hasn’t won a game (0-2) this season without Vince Biegel (and his mullet).
  • Wisconsin is winless (0-1) this season on the road, in the central time zone without Biegel (and his mullet) on the field.
  • Wisconsin’s offense is averaging 15 points per game when Biegel (and that glorious mullet) has sat out.

In all seriousness, Biegel is still listed as questionable for Saturday and even if he plays, he may not play his full workload at outside linebacker. He hasn’t set the world on fire statistically while he’s been in and the defense (including his replacements, Zach Baun and Garret Dooley) have played very well in the month or so that Biegel has been out—I didn’t even attempt to dig through the numbers to prove that wrong.

However, Biegel is one of the leaders of this defense. His return obviously adds talent to the defensive side of the ball, but also discipline and focus that could help the Badgers avoid a letdown in Iowa City. Thus, setting up a huge matchup with Nebraska next weekend and keeping Wisconsin in the race for the Big Ten West.

So, maybe Biegel’s return will result in an extra sack or third-down stop, or maybe we won’t notice a difference with him back. The bottom line is that the No. 10 team and one of the best defenses in the country is getting one of its best players and leaders back on Saturday, and that’s good enough for me.

Iowa cornerback Desmond King

When digging in on Iowa’s defensive leader, Desmond King, one cliché kept coming to mind.

I’m not totally sure how to sum that cliché up in a neat, concise sentence, but it comes from the idea that at a young age children learn a lesson: stoves are hot. Touch a hot stove and, go figure, it’s hot. The obvious lesson, don’t touch the hot stove or, well, you’re going to get burned.

What in the world does this have to do with King? In this case, the Big Ten (and anyone on Iowa’s schedule since the beginning of 2015 season) is that kid and King is one scalding-hot, NFL prospect* of a stove (*a lot of familiar names on that list; let’s hope King follows their lead). Last season, that Big Ten kid kept his hand on the stove, almost until his arm was on fire:

Desmond King's 2015 season
72 13 8 118 1

Wisconsin was certainly not excluded from the fun, as King intercepted quarterback Joel Stave twice for 35 return yards in Iowa’s 10-6 victory over the Badgers.

King burned opponents all the way to the 2015 Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back. Now we sit at game eight of the 2016 season, and King is still piping along, though the children of the Big Ten are starting to learn their lesson. Through seven games, King has only been targeted 32 times. He’s turned those 32 targets into six pass deflections and an interception that he impressively took to the house:

King’s impact on the game doesn’t stop when opponents stop throwing the ball—he handles kicks and punts (quite well, actually) for the Hawkeyes, while supporting the Iowa run defense like very few other college cornerbacks can. He’s a playmaker in every aspect except offense for Iowa; he can cut down Corey Clement on one play, snuff out a Jazz Peavy jet sweep on second down, blanket Robert Wheelwright on third and return the ensuing punt.

Wisconsin has a couple of kids (see Alex, Anthony and P.J.), almost literally, that will face off against King on Saturday. Have they learned their lessons, or have their burns healed too long ago to remember?