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Friends of the Blog: Iowa Q&A

Ross from Go Iowa Awesome and Scott from The Athletic drop by to give us the 411 on the Hawkeyes.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

We all know what it means when Wisconsin and Iowa meet on the football field. You’re about to settle in for three straight hours of unpleasantness. Every single time these two teams play it seems like the game is decided by one score, and while I know that isn’t true, my stomach is never properly settled for a Badgers/Hawkeyes tilt.

Prior to last season’s game, which I’m sure you’ll be reminded of below, the Badgers had won four straight over their rivals to the southwest and seven out of the last eight. How will this year’s game go? We asked a pair of Iowa experts their opinions on the matter.

First up we have my pal RossWB from Go Iowa Awesome, who is a diehard Hawkeyes fan and a fellow Twin Cities resident. Ross and I only agree on our fandom of Minnesota United and Gritty, but he’s still an alright dude.

Here are Ross’ thoughts on the game!

Who is your player to watch on offense?

The Iowa offense in 2021 is going to be built around the run game and the star of that attack is going to be Tyler Goodson. You may recall him rumbling for a cool 106 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries against the Badgers last year?

Goodson was third in the Big Ten in rushing yards last year and I think he’s poised to improve on that this season. He’s the most exciting talent that Iowa has had at RB in several years, a mouth-watering combination of size, quickness and versatility. I expect Iowa to involve him in the offense in a multitude of ways, both as a runner and a receiver — and even as a passer on some occasions.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa
Hmm, not sure if this picture isn’t photoshopped tbqh.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

He was effective in the wildcat formation last season and I expect that we’ll see some new wrinkles out of those looks in 2021. If Goodson isn’t touching the ball at least 20-25 times a game on offense this year, it’s going to be a case of offensive malpractice.

Who is your player to watch on defense?

I think Jack Campbell is going to blow up this year at linebacker. Campbell earned some really strong buzz in training camp last season, but illness (mono, not COVID) slowed him down in the fall. He missed the first three games of the season and didn’t reach full effectiveness until a game or two after that.

Campbell is pretty huge (6-foot-5, 243 lbs.) and he uses that size and strength to his advantage in hitting opponents like a runaway beer truck. But he’s also exceptionally quick for a guy that size and he has the kind of excellent football IQ and instincts you look for in a difference-making defender. Iowa has not been a big LB-blitzing team under Phil Parker and I don’t expect them to go blitz-crazy this year, but I think they’ll also look to take advantage of Campbell’s unique skills and give him opportunities to make life miserable for quarterbacks.

Wisconsin v Iowa
What the hell? Why are there only pictures from the Wisconsin game for Iowa players??? I hate it. Campbell is No. 31, btw.
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

I expect Campbell to show off his playmaking abilities this fall and really be at the heart of what Iowa does on defense. Iowa should have a bunch of good defensive backs and there are some interesting prospects on the defensive line (watch out for Yahya Black, who could be Iowa’s next breakout guy there), but I think Campbell will be the guy who really stands out on defense this year.

Why will your team beat Wisconsin this year?

Because Wisconsin is stupid and ugly and smells bad? Wait, you need some actual reasons why? OK, fine. It’s a cliche to say that this game will come down to who can run the ball more effectively’s going to come down to who can run the ball, right? Cliches are cliches for a reason — because they’re usually true.

The team that’s been able to run the ball better has won the last nine games in this series. You have to go back to 2009 to find the last time the winning team was out-rushed by the losing team. I think Iowa wins because they’re going to have the best running back in the game (Tyler Goodson) and they’re going to be able to run the ball better than the Badgers behind Tyler Linderbaum & Co. And if you win the ground game in this rivalry, you win the game game.

God, isn’t Nebraska just the worst?

I don’t know, this question doesn’t seem like it’s showing proper gratitude to the program and fanbase that SAVED BIG TEN FOOTBALL IN 2020 (tm). But, yes, Nebraska is the worst. They were the worst, they are the worst, and they’ll always be the absolute worst. But that just makes beating them again (and again) (and again) (and again) (and again) (and again) even more satisfying.

And on Scott Frost Day, no less!

But their fans will never learn and never change and never stop thinking that a return to greatness is right around the corner. Nebraska football and America Online both peaked in the 90s but at least AOL isn’t trying to convince me that it’s going to be dominant again any day now. Eat shit now and forever, Nebraska.

Our second guest today is Scott Dochterman of The Athletic. He is, in my humble opinion, one of the best beat writers at The Athletic. While I mostly subscribe to The Athletic for Wisconsin and Philadelphia sports, I find myself often reading his posts about the Hawkeyes.

Here is what Scott had to say about the game!

Who is your player to watch on offense?

My first inclination is to give you an Iowa lineman because fans of both programs appreciate good line play. But I don’t want to bore you guys in the first paragraph (although Tyler Linderbaum is anything but boring) so I’m going with running back Tyler Goodson, who capped last year’s 28-7 win against the Badgers with an 80-yard touchdown run. He’s Iowa’s most complete running back since Shonn Greene and is a weapon as both a runner and receiver.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa
Goodson running behind Linderbaum. We’ll see this view a lot this season.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Goodson leads a quartet of runners that has some versatility and athletic ability. My best comparison for Goodson is probably James White, who is still making NFL money. I’ll refrain from comparing the others to Melvin Gordon or Montee Ball, however.

Who is your player to watch on defense?

I’m riding shotgun on the Jack Campbell bandwagon. He’s a junior linebacker at Iowa who played in only the final five games because of mono. But he was a monster last year and is a freak athletically at 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds. No Big Ten defender was involved in a higher percentage of tackles per game last year, and he intercepted Graham Mertz in the end zone at Kinnick.

I don’t want to get too hyperbolic, especially because Iowa has had its share of outstanding linebackers, but the Hawkeyes never have had anyone that size with that speed and play with a Josey Jewell-type intensity. Campbell is going to make some highlight-reel plays this year.

Why will Iowa beat Wisconsin this year?

Maybe because Nate Stanley isn’t the quarterback? Stanley was Iowa’s only three-time losing starting QB to Wisconsin. He was undefeated in every other traveling trophy game but lost Heartland each time during his tenure. Seriously, it wasn’t all his fault the Hawkeyes dropped a couple of close ones to the Badgers. It just about killed him to lose the last one in Madison, 24-22. I was in the other end zone and can still remember the sound of his collision inside the 1-yard line on that 2-point conversion. It sounded like an axe hitting an oak tree.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Iowa at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We know Iowa-Wisconsin games usually are close and the outcomes often are decided by a couple of plays. I’ll just say I don’t see Iowa’s Aussie punter kicking the ball off the surface again and maybe this time a 2-point conversion goes in Iowa’s favor.

What beer from Wisconsin would you want at a tailgate that isn’t Spotted Cow?

At that time of year, I want something with an Oktoberfest flavor. It doesn’t have to be craft-brewed; I’ll take a Sam Adams or a Leinenkugel’s or even the New Glarus antelope or pronghorn or whatever its Oktoberfest brew is called. They’re all great. I might have to see if Capital Brewing has an Oktoberfest seasonal when I head up to Madison.

But in the here and now, we’re getting close to kickoff and when it’s warm in the Upper Midwest, we need something cold, smooth and preferably cheap. Give me a 12-pack of Hamm’s or Schlitz with a Port-a-Potty nearby and I’m good.