Wisconsin Preview/Prediction
Joel Stave (Fleming/13)
HI.com Publisher
Posted Oct 31, 2013


Big Ten Rivals Iowa and Wisconsin meet on Saturday for the first time in three seasons. Hawkeye Insider takes a look at the Battle for the Heartland Trophy and offers up a prediction.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Hawkeyes were flying high. Coming off a Top 10 season, they were positioned to compete for a conference crown for a second year in a row.

Rival Wisconsin rolled into town ranked a few spots ahead of Iowa on that late October Saturday in 2010. Each team only had lost one time to that point.

The Hawkeyes led 13-10 at halftime. Confidence was high for they and their fan base with the team having won 22 of its previous 26 contests.

Trailing by six points in the fourth quarter, the Badgers mounted a comeback sparked by a fake punt. They escaped Kinnick Stadium with a 31-30 win and have since been to three Rose Bowls. Things mostly have gone the other way for Iowa.

Wisconsin's trickery represented the first of six fake punts successfully executed against the Hawkeyes in the last three and a half seasons. They have compiled in 12-14 record since that fateful night in '10.

The Badgers visit Iowa City Saturday (11 a.m., ABC) for the first time since sneaking out of town with a win three years ago. That was the last time the teams met due to the unbalanced Big Ten schedule.

"We lost by a point, that's what I remember," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said tersely when asked on Tuesday about the last meeting. "It was really disappointing.  I like the one the year before (a 20-10 Iowa win).  Let's talk about that one."

Ferentz coached Iowa teams have split 12 games with the Badgers since he took over the program in '99. Overall, the schools each has won 42 games against the other with two ties.

Saturday's contest could serve as an indicator of where the Hawkeyes stand after bottoming out at 4-8 a year ago. They appear to be trending back in the right direction. Wisconsin provides an excellent opportunity and measuring stick to see if people's perceptions of that are accurate.

"The bottom line is when I left here in '89, that was a program that for whatever reasons had fallen on hard times," Ferentz said. "When I got back here nine years later, it was the total opposite.  They were at the top floor instead of the bottom floor.

"There's certain things that you do that are fundamentally part of who you are and what you are.  Certainly Barry (Alvarez) did a great job of establishing that as a football coach.  I think the two successors have been both smart enough to say that this has been a pretty good formula for quite a while.  You're not going to get too far off that path."   

RECORDS, RANKINGS

Iowa is 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten. The Badgers are 5-2 and 3-1.

HISTORY:

The series is deadlocked 42-42-2 in a series that began in 1894.

THE LINE:

Wisconsin opened as a 7-point choice on Sunday at the Las Vegas Hilton. That number jumped to 10 as of Wednesday. The total stood at 48.5.

TWO TRENDS

-Badgers are 4-0-1 Against the Spread in their last 5 conference games.

-Hawkeyes are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 conference games.

KEY MATCH-UPS

Iowa CB B.J. Lowery v. Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis: A couple of playmakers going head-to-head. Lowery might be tempted to help in run support, especially against the jet sweep, but he better not get caught watching the paint dry or Abbrederis will make him pay.

Iowa FB Adam Cox v. Wisconsin ILB Chris Borland: Iowa always benefits when the running game is clicking but it could be even more important this week to control some clock and keep the Badgers' high-powered offense off of the field. Borland is as good as it gets in the Big Ten and Cox will be sure to find him in the gaps. The Iowa fullback will get an opportunity to keep him from making stops.

INJURIES

Wisconsin- Chris Borland (hamstring, questionable).

Iowa - Dominic Alvis (back, out), Michael Malloy (undisclosed, doubtful).

POINTS OF INTEREST

Wisconsin

-With a win over Iowa, the Badgers would be bowl eligible for the 12th-consecutive season. UW’s run of 11 consecutive bowl game appearances is the longest active streak in the Big Ten and ties the Badgers for the eighth-longest streak in the nation.

-The Badgers are 10-4 in November road games since the 2006 season.

-Sophomore RB Melvin Gordon leads the Big Ten in rushing and ranks No. 4 nationally at 144.6 yards per game. He gave the Badgers a 1,000-yard rusher for a nation-leading ninth-consecutive season when he topped the plateau on his 105th carry of the season vs. Illinois That broke senior James White’s mark for the fastest to 1,000 yards in a season (138 carries).

-Wisconsin ranks No. 3 in the Big Ten and 11th nationally in total offense, averaging 513.6 yards per game. The Badgers have racked up more than 500 yards in four of seven games and have been held below 400 total yards just once (399 at Ohio State).

-The Badgers have tallied 12 offensive plays of 50-plus yards, which ranks No. 2 nationally behind Baylor’s nation-leading total of 17.

-Wisconsin’s total of 24 rushing touchdowns ranks the Badgers in a tie for seventh nationally and No. 2 in the Big Ten.

-Wisconsin enters Saturday ranked No. 6 nationally in total defense (285.0) while.

-Wisconsin has allowed opponents an average of just 2.80 yards per rushing attempt, the fifth-best mark of any FBS team.

-Including limiting Northwestern to a 2-for-17 mark (11.8 percent) on third downs on Oct. 12, Wisconsin ranks No. 9 nationally in opponent third-down conversion percentage at 30.4 percent.

-Senior WR Jared Abbrederis ranks third in the Big Ten in receptions per game (6.1) and receiving yards per game (107.4).

-Sophomore QB Joel Stave ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 27th nationally in passing efficiency (min. 100 attempts) at 150.96. He also ranks third in the league in completion percentage (63.5 percent) and fourth in yards per attempt (8.3).

Iowa

-Iowa’s three losses are to teams that have a combined record of 23-1 (Northern Illinois, 8-0; Michigan State, 7-1, Ohio State, 8-0). All three are in the BCS top 25 this week.

-Iowa’s defense has held 7-of-8 opponents under their rushing average this season. Wisconsin averages 296.9 rushing yards per game.

-The Iowa defense has allowed two rushing touchdowns this year, the lowest total in the nation. Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon has rushed for 11 touchdowns this season, more than any other Big Ten player.

-The Hawkeyes are 5-0 when winning the turnover margin (Missouri State +1, Iowa State +1, Western Michigan +2, Minnesota +1, Northwestern +1), and 0-3 when losing the turnover margin (Northern Illinois, -2; Michigan State, -1, at Ohio State, -1). The Hawkeyes are plus-2 overall this season.

-The Hawkeyes have held a halftime lead in every game this season.

-Iowa has allowed five red-zone touchdowns this season, the lowest total in the nation.

-Iowa has three Wisconsin natives on its roster - FB Macon Plewa, DL Mike Hardy and TE Peter Pekar. Wisconsin has no Iowa natives on its roster.

-Iowa holds a 4-3 advantage in the series with Wisconsin since the two teams began playing for the Heartland Trophy in 2004.

-The Hawkeyes are 2-for-2 in trophy games this season following their 23-7 win at Minnesota on Sept. 28 to retain Floyd of Rosedale. Iowa won the first of four trophy games with a 27-21 win at Iowa State on Sept. 14. The Hawkeyes will attempt to reclaim the Heartland Trophy against Wisconsin Saturday, and win their first Heroes Trophy at Nebraska on Nov. 29.

PREDICTION

Before the season, I felt like the Hawkeyes would split the Northwestern and Wisconsin games. I predicted Iowa would knock off the Badgers at that time.

Last week, I flipped my preseason prognostication and picked the Hawkeyes to defeat Northwestern. Iowa squeaked out a 17-10 overtime victory.

One of the reasons I flipped the choice last week was because the Wildcats hadn't played as well as I thought they would in the preseason. Conversely, Wisconsin's transition after a coaching change has been seamless, something I didn't expect. The Badgers are much improved from last year.

Wisconsin's offense is dynamic. It would be surprising if it didn't put up more than 20 points even against a solid Hawkeye defense.

With that in mind, Iowa's offense needs to score against a salty Badger unit. To say the Hawkeyes have been inconsistent on that side of the ball would be an understatement.

That's the reason that for the second week in a row, I'm going to switch my preseason pick for a game.

SCORE: Wisconsin 24, IOWA 20


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