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Wisconsin football: keys to victory against Iowa

What do the Badgers need to do to get back on track against on of their biggest rivals?

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long few weeks for Badger fans and players, but we’re just a few days away from a huge match up in the Big Ten West.

With Minnesota having two games up on both the Badgers and Hawkeyes, this game is essentially an elimination bout in the West division. These two teams know each other well, and frankly don’t like each other. It’s always a physical football game, and I expect no different this Saturday.

What do the badgers need to do to win this game and keep their Big Ten hopes alive? Lets take a look.

Contain the play action

Last night I went back and watched the entire game from 2018 match-up and, despite the Badgers getting the win, it was a pretty ugly football game on both sides. The biggest takeaway I found in the Badgers was the defense against the play action. Nate Stanley threw the ball well against Wisconsin, but most of his big throws were off of play action. The secondary looked lost on a lot of them, and busted coverage was the usual culprit.

That being said, the secondary was young and inexperienced at that point last year and the group collectively has played better this year. Still, with Iowa’s main source of offense coming on the arm of Stanely, the secondary will have to be ready for that again this time around. Iowa has not ran the football well in 2019, ranking No. 87 in rushing offense. That should make it easier on the Badgers knowing they don’t have to look out for a back like Reggie Corbin or J.K. Dobbins. Additionally, the Badgers don’t have to worry about two dominating tight ends in Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson who tore them apart a season ago. It’s still a very big key, but it should be easier done this time around given the changes in personnel on both sides of the football.

Get the ball to your other playmakers

Look, I love Jonathan Taylor. Everyone does, but eventually the Badgers are going to have to use some of their other weapons. They didn’t against Ohio State, and you saw what happened. Iowa has played great defense this year, and I highly doubt they are going to let Taylor beat them, no team is until they see a passing game they have to respect.

Early in the season they had it, but the last two games Wisconsin just hasn’t done well in that aspect. Last year, Taylor was able to get the yards to sustain drives, but throwing the ball was really the Badgers only source of points. Alex Hornibrook threw the ball well, with just five incompletions and three touchdowns.

If the Badgers want to have that same success, I think you’re going to have to find it in the passing game. Iowa hasn’t let anyone run on them, ranking No. 8 in rushing defense. Taylor will have to help sustain drives, but I don’t expect him to be allowed much space to run unless the passing game opens things up and threatens with some other players.

Take care of the football

This is key in every football game ever played, but more so when these two teams square off. Iowa and Wisconsin is a brutal and physical match up. They want to play the same style and take time to put together methodical drives. That usually means there aren’t a lot of possessions in the game, and if you give those possession away, you’re probably going to be on the losing end.

That was apparent in last year’s game, as Iowa turned the ball over three times in the losing effort. Stanley was intercepted once, and the Iowa special teams gave Wisconsin the ball twice in favorable field position with fumbles. If you want to win this game, you can’t do that. Three possessions is huge in a game like this, and if you give the opponent any extra’s you’re asking for trouble.

We’ve seen it the last two games, with the Badgers turning the ball over five times in those losses. If you don’t win the turnover battle, or at least keep it even, you’re probably losing this football game and most football games in this conference.