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Wisconsin vs Iowa: Keys to win

We evaluate how either side can win in Week 7, be it in close or blowout fashion.

With a cool, soggy, and blustery afternoon on tap for Camp Randall Saturday afternoon, let’s take a look at the possible outcomes for the Wisconsin Badgers and Iowa Hawkeyes as the squads clash in the latest edition of the Heartland Trophy Game, a distant second on the coolest Badger Trophies list behind the Axe.

(For purposes of this game, “Winning Big” means coming out on top by 14+ points.)

Wisconsin Wins Big If…

…pretty much everything goes really well for the Badgers: (1) The wind and rain don’t impact the Wisconsin offense, which moves the ball effectively; (2) Iowa’s defense is simply good, not great, and doesn’t create turnovers (Note: Iowa is only 5th in the Big Ten in scoring D coming in); (3) Deacon Hill plays like a guy who couldn’t sniff the top of Wisconsin’s quarterback depth chart for a so-so offense in 2022 causing him to enter the transfer portal in early October; and (4) the Badger crowd brings it all game—especially the students.

If the Madison weather conditions were less terrible, I’d have put the likelihood of a big Badger win higher than I am here, and you should probably stay away from Wisconsin at -9.5, given the conditions.

Likelihood of Wisconsin Winning Big: 15%

Wisconsin Wins a Close One If…

…it triumphs in the turnover battle, which is easier said than done vs a solid, ball-hawking Iowa defense, and limits big plays from Iowa’s outstanding punt returner, Cooper DeJean.

This seems like a pretty basic formula, but with the Badger defense (and the weather) likely making things even tougher than normal on Hill and the Iowa offense, there’s no need to overthink this one.

Limiting mistakes and punting away from one guy seems like a reasonable, and very doable, formula for Badger success.

Likelihood of Wisconsin Winning a Close One: 55%

Iowa Wins Big If...

…Wisconsin totally implodes in all three phases of the game. I see a tough, low-scoring contest as the most likely outcome, so the thought of Hill and a well-below-average Hawkeye offense being conducted by Brian Ferentz—perhaps the most in-over-his-head OC in recent Big Ten history—hanging a huge L on the Badgers seems far-fetched.

Of course, Iowa’s Special Teams/Defense doesn’t need that low-octane offense in order to put points up, and if those units manage to make a number of big plays, it would be very difficult for Wisconsin to keep up.

But, I don’t see it.

Likelihood of Iowa Winning Big: 5%

Iowa Wins a Close One If…

…they force more turnovers than they commit and get some field position help from their special teams. The weather conditions for this game look like Kirk Ferentz ordered them from room service: Cool, wet, and very windy is definitely a relative advantage for a defensive-oriented Hawkeyes team with a weak offense.

There’s nothing the Badgers can do about this besides strap on the pads and helmet and match Iowa’s intensity from the opening kickoff while limiting mistakes. This is no small ask, but very doable.

Likelihood of Iowa Winning a Close One: 25%