Every college football Saturday is exciting as teams look for matchups to exploit in what traditionally is the game within the game for coaches and players alike.
This year we at B5Q will dive into one pivotal matchup to keep an eye on as the Wisconsin Badgers work their way through their non-conference and Big Ten portions of their 2021 football schedule.
While all of the various phases of a game are incredibly important, there are normally a few specific matchups that can make or break a game for a particular side. This weekly feature will highlight one of those matchups in greater detail as we preview the upcoming weekend.
This week, the matchup is juicy, with two of the Big Ten’s best going to head-to-head in the trenches. Let’s explore the battle between Wisconsin NT Keeanu Benton and Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum.
The case for Tyler Linderbaum
Iowa has a knack for developing top-shelf offensive linemen. While their offensive line, in general this season, is not performing at as high a level as traditionally expected, center Tyler Linderbaum is an absolute stud.
The junior from inside the state of Iowa was originally projected to play defensive line in college given his 6-foot-3 and 255-pound frame coming out of high school, but like former Badger Tyler Biadasz, his explosiveness and smarts eventually shifted him to the other side of the ball.
Linderbaum is a tremendous prospect and Iowa uses him in a lot of unique ways. The Hawkeyes have him pull from his center spot frequently, and he moves with effortlessness and fluidity that is not usually seen for a guy his size. Now at 290 pounds, Linderbaum has a rare blend of quickness and power that makes him a tremendous talent. Add in a nasty streak, and he is a player that has pro scouts drooling.
Linderbaum is a really amazing athlete and the unquestioned leader up front for Iowa. I am excited to see how he and Wisconsin nose tackle Keeanu Benton compare on Saturday.
The case for Keeanu Benton
Statistically, Benton won’t blow you out of the water. Through seven games he has seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, half a sack, two deflected passes and a fumble recovery. But that doesn’t nearly tell the whole story.
Benton has been on NFL radars since a strong true freshman season with the Badgers, and this is a game that many professional scouts will be watching. How he compares to a player of Linderbaum’s caliber could really turn heads and elevate his draft stock.
Standing at at 6-foot-4 and 317 pounds, Benton routinely has a size advantage at his nose tackle position, and he is tremendous at taking on blockers to free space for the linebackers behind him. With how much Iowa loves to run the ball, the Badgers will probably roll with three down lineman for most of the game, meaning that Benton will line up over Linderbaum most of the time.
If Benton can continue to do a great job of two-gapping at the point of attack, I think that Wisconsin should be able to shut down Iowa’s run game, much like they have all of their opponents this season on the ground.
Most of the time fans will track the ball on each play, but the battle inside between these two players should be a lot of fun to watch. Both players are former wrestlers and great athletes for their size. I would expect an all all out war to go on in the trenches.