A familiar foe enters Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as the No. 8 (CFP) Wisconsin Badgers welcome the No. 20 Iowa Hawkeyes to Madison.
Iowa (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) come off a huge 55-24 home win over the Ohio State Buckeyes, where the Hawkeyes slashed Urban Meyer’s defense for 487 yards in a a highly-balanced effort (243 yards rushing, 244 receiving). Its defense forced four interceptions, three by cornerback Joshua Jackson, from the arm of quarterback J.T. Barrett.
Wisconsin (9-0, 6-0) continued its undefeated season with a 45-17 win over Indiana, with true freshman Jonathan Taylor rushing for 183 yards on 29 carries and a 32-yard touchdown run.
The Badgers, however, will be without their budding star in wide receiver Quintez Cephus, who was lost for the season due to a right leg injury. UW is also without inside linebacker Chris Orr for this game after suffering a left leg injury in the first quarter against the Hoosiers.
A lot is on the line for Wisconsin. For the season as a whole, continuing an unblemished record through the rest of the season allows the program to continue being part of the College Football Playoff discussion. Lose against Iowa, and well, that will not matter, though the Big Ten West division championship is still in clear sight.
There’s also the Heartland Trophy and winning against a rival whose program is similar in physicality and reputation. The road team has won each of the last six times dating back to 2009, and 2015’s disappointing 10-6 loss is still remembered by those in the locker room.
“Just not seeing it where it’s supposed to be every day for a year is tough,” redshirt senior safety Joe Ferguson said on Wednesday. “Then you got to relive that memory of losing the game, so them putting the trophy at practice or in the meeting room so we walk by it every day is kind of just like, from top to bottom, everyone in this program knows it’s a big deal.”
When and where is the game?
Wisconsin and Iowa will kick off at 2:30 p.m. CT at Camp Randall Stadium.
How can I watch?
The game will be broadcast on ABC with Joe Tessitore assigned to play-by-play duties, Todd Blackledge as the analyst, and Holly Rowe reporting from the sideline.
How can I stream the game online?
Via WatchESPN.com and the ESPN mobile app (iOS/Android).
How can I listen to it on the radio?
On the Badgers Sports Network, where you’ll find the usual team of Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas, Mark Tauscher and Patrick Herb. Head to BadgerSportsNetwork.com to find it. You can also listen on iHeartRadio (iOS/Android/online) by searching “WIBA.”
On satellite radio, you’ll find the broadcast on Sirius 135/XM 195.
Who and what to watch during the game
Wisconsin pass defense vs. Iowa’s tight ends
Redshirt senior outside linebacker Garret Dooley on Wednesday summed up what this rivalry game could be about:
“I think that this is a game where everybody watching knows what each team is going to do. Each team is going to try to run the ball, control the line of scrimmage, control the clock and basically who’s going to win this game is the team that’s most physical at the line. I think that’s exactly where it starts.
Iowa’s rushing attack is 10th in the conference, gaining just over 143 yards per contest and 3.9 yards per carry, but ran for 243 against Ohio State last Saturday on 6.4 yards per attempt.
Wisconsin is second in the conference, fourth in the nation against the run in allowing just under 88 per game.
“They’ve been the same team for a long time and they know that opponents know what they’re going to do, and they don’t care,” Dooley said. “They’re still going to try to run the ball down your throats, and if that’s working, they’re not going to stop doing it. Especially as a front seven, we have to focus on being physical, maintaining our gaps and just trying to get them into our longer second and third downs so that we can pass rush and get after the quarterback.”
So, if Wisconsin can stop the run, the biggest threat could come from Iowa’s tight ends from the arm of (let me know if you’ve heard that he’s a Wisconsin native) quarterback Nate Stanley. The Menomonie, Wis., product has completed 58.3 of his throws for 1,929 yards with 22 touchdown passes, only four interceptions, 145.81 passer efficiency).
True sophomore Noah Fant (23 receptions, 353 yards, seven touchdowns) and redshirt freshman T.J. Hockenson (19, 272, three) are dangerous targets at tight end and combined for nine catches for 125 yards with four touchdown receptions against the Buckeyes last weekend.
Though Wisconsin’s cornerbacks should match-up well with Iowa’s wide receivers, it should bear watching who covers those tight ends and how they defend them. Could the Badgers utilize the safeties, inside linebackers, or possibly a cornerback to contain these two passing targets?
“No. 87, the tight end, is ridiculous,” Ferguson said. “He’s an athlete, he almost looks like a receiver running those routes so you really got to be on your technique. You got to be locked in and you can’t make a mistake because if he gets behind you it’s like a receiver getting behind you so you got to have a plan for it every time you’re covering him.”
Can the Wisconsin pass rush, which is second in the Big Ten in sacks (3.4 per game), get pressure on Stanley and an offensive line tied for second in sacks allowed (1.3)?
Wisconsin rushing attack vs. Iowa’s front seven
Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (244.8), while Iowa is in the middle of the pack in yards allowed on the ground (147.3)
The Badgers’ know they’re in a for a fight against a physical front seven with redshirt senior linebacker Josey Jewell leading the way.
“They are a tough defensive front. They play with great technique, great pad level and they know what they’re doing,” right guard Beau Benzschawel said. “They know their scheme well so it’ll be up to us up front and to get one-on-ones with the backs on safeties, so long as we can do that we should have a good day.”
Jewell leads the Big Ten in tackles is fourth in the nation in tackles (92) while also tallying 9.5 tackles for loss. He and that defense will have to try to stop true freshman phenom Jonathan Taylor who is fourth in the nation in rushing (152 yards per game) and is the conference’s leading rusher.
“He’s the four-star general, as we call it,” Benzschawel said. “He’s definitely the leader of their defense and he’s going to get everybody on the same page to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing.”
IF UW can get the ball rolling, that will help take pressure off of quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who is second in the conference in pass efficiency but has thrown interceptions in seven of nine games (including all six Big Ten games). He needs to eliminate those one to two bad throws/plays (the “oopsy” plays) in this game to keep the offense moving in a rhythm.
If Wisconsin cannot run the ball on Saturday, that spells trouble against the likes of cornerback Joshua Jackson and company, especially with the loss of wide receiver Quintez Cephus for the remainder of 2017.
Key notes to look at for Iowa’s defense: Though they give up nearly 222 yards through the air, they are third in the conference—13th in the nation—in efficiency (108.3). The Hawkeyes are also second in the Big Ten, tied for ninth in the FBS, in interceptions (13).
Though UW leads the nation in third down conversions (53.5 percent), Iowa only allows opponents to move the chains on that down 31.3 percent.
Jake Kocorowski: Wisconsin 24, Iowa 14
Kevin O’Connell: Wisconsin 38, Iowa 17
Owen Riese: Wisconsin 28, Iowa 20
Ryan Mellenthin: Wisconsin 31, Iowa 24
Drew Hamm: Wisconsin 8, Iowa 4 (all safeties)
Also Drew Hamm: Wisconsin 58, Iowa 57 (all 25-plus yard touchdowns...per Drew: “I can’t decide which way to go”)
You all came through this week.
I think Fox Sports Wisconsin’s Dave Heller knows me too well.
you will drink so many sodas, you will start peeing straight Coke.— Dave Heller (@dave_heller) November 9, 2017
This one is fair
Badger media will continue to remind us of their obsession with Gary Andersen by reminding us 10,000 times that he didn't recruit Nate Stanley hard enough...— Ryan Andersen (@baraboo99) November 9, 2017
Wisconsin 9-3— Hundley_Goat (4-4) (@packersbest301) November 9, 2017
Badgers will actually show up for the 1st quarter, and score two touchdowns— Al Hjelle (@alanhjelle) November 9, 2017
Some positive thoughts on Hornibrook:
Hornibrook will have a better game than Stanley.— Bill_Woj (@Slough_Creek) November 9, 2017
Hornibrook will hit Danny Davis in stride for a 50+ yard td— Arianit Ismaili (@a_ismaili) November 9, 2017
Hornibrook gets praised by all the bandwagon fans— Will Reinicke (@Chief_TwiLLy) November 9, 2017
Hornibrook doesn't throw a back-breaking INT— Taylor Laabs (@TaylorLaabs) November 9, 2017
More turnover talk:
We don't fumble on the 1 yard-line...(for the third consecutive year).— Nathan J. Welsch (@nathanjwelsch) November 9, 2017
combined INTs > combined passing TDs— Kaleb Gottwald (@Kaleb_Gottwald) November 9, 2017
One of these teams gets a fumble/ interception return for a touchdown. UW would be my preferred choice. Go Bucky!!— Paul Bergum (@paul_bergum) November 9, 2017
Both the IA and WI defense combine to score 3 TDs. WI escapes with Gags 50 yard field goal in the closing seconds.— Ri0 (@riod_m) November 9, 2017
This sounds like something for “B5Q Bingo:”
Troy only has 9 Fingers will be said often. I think Wis wins 13-10— Jo Howard (@Johoward519) November 9, 2017
Canp Randall will announce a 1 point, mid 3rd quarter Auburn-Georgia score to half cheers, half jeers.— R*O*C*K (@doc_rock) November 10, 2017
"Grandson of Barry Alvarez" is said only ONCE!— Nathan J. Welsch (@nathanjwelsch) November 9, 2017
That’s the spirit!
I will have a total meltdown, at least, twice each quarter.— Tommy Christian (@BrofessorTC) November 9, 2017
I think I've hit my limit already, but Arrington Farrar is my sleeper of the game. Whatever that means.— Nathan J. Welsch (@nathanjwelsch) November 9, 2017
The Badgers will be ahead comfortably by multiple scores at halftime— RZ6 (@RAZ6ne) November 9, 2017
Fr. Mike talks to Horni and gets through to him to "hold on to it". No turnovers. But Taylor does not hear the sermon and fumbles twice.— LordBuckethead (@emmabean2000moj) November 9, 2017
Iowa continues its new “Mad Kirk” style of play and attempts four fake field goals.— Bart T rvik (@totally_t_bomb) November 9, 2017
This one is my #brand
There will be 3 total full back or tight end touchdowns combined, both teams. #physical— Peter Gustof Swanson (@peterGswanson) November 9, 2017
And now, the BOLDEST PREDICTION EVER. And I love it.
The student section is full at kickoff.— Alex Bollmeyer (@bollmeyer11) November 9, 2017