The Badgers took home our first back-to-back wins of the season last week. Now, they have a chance to earn their first three-win run of the season. Iowa, like Wisconsin, is on a downward slide this year. They’ve got a lot of things to figure out in the new NCAA with NIL, transfer portal, diversified offenses, etc. Both teams are coming into this game with back-to-back wins. Let’s check out what will be Wisconsin’s keys to victory over Iowa.
The Badger defense needs to make Iowa pass
The Hawkeye's rushing attack may have found a new star in freshman Kaleb Johnson who racked up almost 300 yards in two games. He’s impressive and could be the next great back to run for the Hawkeyes. But this Badger defense has been more than solid the previous four weeks. Yes, we’re going to overlook what happened in East Lansing. It’s hard to imagine that Johnson will keep up that same ability after this Badger unit seems to have finally found its groove. Wisconsin has found a way to keep rushing to around 100 yards per game this season and under 100 yards in the previous four games.
If Wisconsin is successful in making Iowa play the pass then things could be a free for all. Their QB Spenser Petras has thrown for an equal number of interceptions to touchdowns at five on the season. His QB rating is high but under pressure, his accuracy and completion percentage goes way down. When he’s smart enough to hold onto the ball it’s been bad too. He’s been sacked 24 times this season. If the Badger safeties, corners, and linebackers can clog up the space for Iowa’s receivers Wisconsin’s will seek Petras out and bring him down quickly.
Find a way to wear out this defense with our rushing attack
The Iowa Hawkeyes, like the Badgers, appreciate a good ground-and-pound attack that not only wears down defenses' stamina but will also erode time away from the clock. However, while this defense is one of the best in the B10 its offense hasn’t been able to stay on the field long enough to give this unit a breather. The Badger front is undisciplined when it comes to penalties but even against Ohio State, they found ways to create space on the ground for Wisconsin backs to rush through. Iowa has been able to keep almost every team’s rushing attack to under 100 yards.
But the Badgers need to assert their dominance in the trenches and can’t allow the Hawkeyes to dictate the flow of the game. Cut down the penalties and there’s no reason that Allen and Guerendo shouldn’t be able to find space and run right over this Iowa line. Yes, the unit is deep and has seen a lot of its underclassmen step up in the previous games but Wisconsin can take advantage of that. While the two previous wins for the Hawkeyes were well deserved and earned Iowa hasn’t seen a rushing attack like the Badgers. We had almost 300 yards on the ground last week against a more than respectable Maryland defense. The Badgers have thunder and lightning in Allen and Guerendo and they’re planning to bring the storm to Iowa City.
The trophy battle run begins
The Heartland trophy is a fairly new piece of hardware for the Badgers/Hawkeyes rivalry. While the matchup between the two teams has been played almost annually since the 1920’s, almost 100 years, we’ve only been fighting for a physical trophy since 2004. The Badgers are 10-6 with the trophy and 49-44- overall in the series. It’s not the newest trophy that the Badgers fight for, that belongs to the Freedom Trophy rivalry against Nebraska. It’s not the oldest or most beloved rivalry, obviously, that belongs to our rivalry with Minnesota. But it’s certainly become a game that I and many Badgers care about and seem to have fun with. Leonard was there when the trophy was introduced as a player where Wisconsin lost 30-7.
Now, as a coach Leonard will want to see a different result not just for the team but as another marker for him to establish his potential permanent leader for the Badgers going forward. If the Badgers are able to escape with a victory, they won’t just walk away with a trophy but we’re still able to keep competing for a Big Ten West title, and we’ll also be bowl eligible. The new two weeks against Nebraska and Minnesota are also trophy games. Let’s start this run of trophy battles off right, eh? Go get’em Badgers. On Wisconsin!