IOWA CITY, Iowa. — No. 18 Wisconsin (2-1) travels to Iowa (3-0) for an under the lights showdown to open up Big Ten Conference play. The winner of the Badgers and Hawkeyes has gone on to represent the West Division in the Big Ten Championship Game in each of the last four seasons…
NUMBERS TO KNOW
.833: UW has gone 35-7 (.833) in conference play over the previous five seasons (2013-17). Only Ohio State (39-3, .929) had a better league record over that span.
4: The Badgers have come out victorious in each of their last four trips to Kinnick Stadium.
5: Wisconsin has won five of the last six meetings against Iowa.
15: The Badgers have won 15 straight regular-season Big Ten games, dating back to 2016, the longest conference win streak in school history.
17: UW has won 17 of their last 18 trophy games.
WHAT TO WATCH
Can Wisconsin’s Offense Get On Track?
Through three games, Wisconsin’s offense has come alive in spurts but for the most part, has been inconsistent — surprising to say the least after returning a nearly intact unit that was last seen running up and down the field on Miami (FL) in their own stadium.
Wisconsin ranks No. 59 in FBS in scoring offense, having not played a power-five opponent. The Badgers scored on just three of their 10 drives in last Saturday’s loss to BYU.
“Each possession is everything,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “You don’t know how many times you’re going to get the ball and when you’ve got it — you take full advantage of having it.
“That was a game where little mistakes popped up. Someone made a play because of it.”
Iowa isn’t exactly an ideal opponent to try and find your rhythm either.
The Hawkeyes enter Saturday ranked in the top 25 nationally in all four major defensive statistical categories, including top three in scoring defense (8.0 ppg), total defense (209.0 ypg), and rushing defense (42.0 ypg).
Stanley vs. a Young Wisconsin Secondary
Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley is 8-2 as a starter at Kinnick Stadium. In those 10 starts, he’s thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns to just six interceptions.
Stanley is coming off a 309-yard performance against Northern Iowa. Last season, he threw 26 touchdown passes, one shy of tying the school’s single-season record.
Can a young Wisconsin secondary keep Stanley off track?
With three new starters — Scott Nelson, Caesar Williams, and Faion Hicks — the Badgers have done an adequate job on the back end and currently rank No. 11 in passing defense (145.0 ypg). However, Saturday will be their biggest test yet against one of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks.
In the 2017 matchup at Camp Randall, UW held Stanley to 8-of-24 passing for 41 yards and one interception.
Battle in the Trenches
As with any Iowa-Wisconsin battle, you win at the point of attack, you win the game. On offense, that will be no easy task for Jonathan Taylor and the UW run game.
The Hawkeyes are second in the Big Ten and NCAA in rushing defense (42.0). Iowa allows just 1.5 yards per carry, second in the Big Ten and third in the country. Iowa has allowed just 40 first downs this season, fewer than any other Big Ten team and tied for sixth in all of college football.
Despite some offensive struggles, the Badgers rank ninth in the country in rushing offense, averaging 285.0 yards on the ground per game. Taylor is second nationally with 515 rushing yards and five scores.
“They haven’t really changed much,” said junior right tackle David Edwards. “Really big, physical group, It’s going to be awesome to go against them.”
Wisconsin entered the 2018 with very high aspirations and considered to be head and shoulders above the rest of the Big Ten West. However, after a 24-21 loss to BYU, the Badgers head into Saturday’s matchup with Iowa looking vulnerable.
A big question that will be answered at Kinnick Stadium, was the loss to BYU a fluke and serve as a wake up call? Or is UW just not as good of a football team as we thought?
In each of the last four seasons in which UW has dropped a non-conference game, they haven’t made it through without at least two more defeats in Big Ten play, including two seasons of four losses or more.
Wisconsin’s attitude all week has reflected that of a team that still believes they’re a college football contender and that they’ll be fueled by the BYU loss. We’ll buy what they’re selling at least for one more week.
Wisconsin 26 Iowa 20