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State Street Stats: Iowa preview

The data suggests three critical factors to look for in Saturday’s B1G elimination game

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

All data in this article was supplied by Sports Source Analytics. Credit and gratitude to Zane Murfitt of CougCenter for creating the template for these interactive graphics through Tableau. Readers on a mobile device, Google AMP or Apple News may have difficulties reading the embedded interactive graphics.

The No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers take on the No. 18 Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday in what might be an elimination game for the B1G West title. I want to take a look at a few games in Wisconsin’s not-too-distant past, and combine them with the stats for Iowa and Wisconsin to make sense of Saturday’s game.

2018’s match up with Iowa

The chart below is the game flow, which visualizes total yardage throughout the game. 2018 was a very close back-and-forth game throughout.

If the table does not load properly, click here to view. Mobile viewers should view horizontally for the best experience.

Some quick notes from the box score of that one:

  • Iowa’s tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant combined for 6 catches and 154 receiving yards. That is about 60% of the passing yards Iowa QB Nate Stanley threw for that day. Wisconsin will have to deal with neither Hockenson nor Fant; they have both moved on to the NFL.
  • Alex Hornibrook was very good, completing 17 of 22 passes for 205 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Iowa will not have to deal with Hornibrook; he has moved on to Florida State.
  • The Hawkeyes held Jonathan Taylor to 4.5 yards per carry, no touchdowns, and 119 total yards.

Wisconsin’s loss to Illinois

This game is a more useful case study than the Ohio State game for a template on how to beat Wisconsin as an underdog, which Iowa is.

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Not even the table can believe that Illinois won, as it only has the final score 23-21. Not sure where that comes from, but everything else is correct. Wisconsin really dominated this game, and the game flow is reminiscent of Arizona State’s victory over Michigan State early in the season.

The key thing to note here is Illinois’s explosive plays. In spite of the Illini ranking No. 92 in explosive play rate, they torched the Badgers for several key plays. Combine that with a few late turnovers, and you got yourself a recipe for an upset.

Wisconsin demonstrated a weakness late in the Michigan game for giving up big plays, and that has been confirmed by Ohio State and, shockingly, Illinois.

Comparing Iowa and Wisconsin

Below are two interactive tables that compare Wisconsin and Iowa. Note how potent both defenses are, and notice how Iowa’s defense has struggled. Also note that Wisconsin is trending down in explosive defense, while Iowa is the best in the country at limiting explosive plays. Finally, do not expect either team to have a ton of success throwing the ball.

When Wisconsin has the ball

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When Iowa has the ball

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When I look at these tables, they suggest three goals for the Badgers to have a strong chance to win.

  1. Wisconsin has to limit explosive plays. The Badgers have shown that even the most impotent offense can strike big with explosive plays, so there is no reason to believe that Iowa cannot hit a few homers. In contrast, Wisconsin is one of the least explosive offenses in the country (even though it is efficient), and Iowa is the best in explosive defense. You cannot expect the Badgers to hit any home runs, so you have to stop Iowa from getting chunk yardage.
  2. The key to the 2018 victory was Hornibrook’s strong play, so Jack Coan will have to outperform Stanley for the Badgers to win. Wisconsin’s rushing offense is only No. 48 in the country in yards per carry, and the Hawkeyes will likely bottle up Taylor again.
  3. Taylor does not have to run for 200 yards to win, but the run game does need to become more consistent on first down. Against Ohio State, the Badgers frequently faced 2nd and 8+ where they ran a traditional run with Taylor. This will not be a recipe for success in the cold on Saturday.

Bonus Stat: State Syllables

Perhaps the most important data question I have is how many syllables are in the word Iowa? Brian Bulaga pronounces it almost monosyllabic. The fans spell out each letter, and that’s six syllables.

So... how many syllables are there?


How many syllables in "Iowa"?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    (12 votes)
  • 8%
    (18 votes)
  • 82%
    (181 votes)
  • 2%
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    (3 votes)
220 votes total Vote Now