The teams: The No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers (4-2, 1-2) vs the Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2, 3-1)
The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Ia.
The TV coverage: ESPN with Steve Levy and Brian Griese in the booth, and Todd McShay on the sideline
The last time: Iowa forced four Wisconsin turnovers on their way to an ugly 10-6 win in Madison last year.
The series: Wisconsin 44-43-2
The line: Wisconsin -4
The Badgers injury report:
OL Jon Dietzen (leg)
WR Rob Wheelwright (leg)
FB Alec Ingold (arm)
OLB Zack Baun (leg)
CB Natrell Jamerson (leg)
NT Olive Sagapolu (arm)
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1) How do you respond?
Following an agonizing overtime loss to No. 2 Ohio State, there is a legitimate concern outside of the program that Wisconsin will be unable to muster up the energy to go on the road and beat an Iowa squad that is starting to play some pretty good football. But that concern is not prevalent inside the the Badgers locker room.
“Of course it’s a disappointment,” running back Dare Ogunbowale said of the loss to the Buckeyes. “(But) we know we have to respond, so we’re going to.”
It helps that despite the loss to Ohio State, Wisconsin still has plenty to play for, including staying alive for a Big Ten West title and an outside shot at becoming the first two-loss team to make the College Football Playoff.
2) For the bull
Wisconsin and Iowa play for the Heartland Trophy, and as is the custom, the trophy sits on the sideline of the team that won it the year before. That meant last season, when Iowa beat the Badgers 10-6 at Camp Randall Stadium, they came streaming over to the home sideline to reclaim the brass bull for the first time since 2009. That moment is seared into the minds of Wisconsin’s players.
“It literally feels like someone is taking something from you,” wide receiver Jazz Peavy said on Monday. “You come into the locker room, we have the trophy cases and all that, and you see the trophies in there, and to not see one in there…someone took that from us and we definitely want that back.”
Since the trophy was first awarded in 2004, Iowa has a 5-4 advantage.
3) Proving it wasn’t a fluke
For the first time this season, and perhaps more accurately, the first time in Paul Chryst’s tenure, the Badgers were able to have success in the running game against an elite opponent. Wisconsin had 236 yards on the ground and averaged 5.1 yards per carry against the Buckeyes, a team that came in among the top 10 defenses in the country.
164 of those yards came from running back Corey Clement, who finally had his breakout game, becoming just the ninth player since 2000 to run for at least 160 yards against Ohio State.
“I was wondering when the time was going to come,” Clement said of his second 100-yard game this year. “I just tried to do what I could.”
Now Clement and the Badgers will face an Iowa defense that is allowing 151.9 yards per game on the ground. And while they held Purdue to a season-low 47 yards last week, the Hawkeyes have been susceptible in the run game, including giving up a combined 437 yards in its two losses this year.
“(The Ohio State) production needs to carry on into Iowa,” Clement said. “If we want to keep thinking about winning out the West (Division), we have to keep being productive on the ground.”
4) A growing opportunity
Alex Hornibrook says he ran the final play of the loss to Ohio State over and over in his mind in the twenty-four hours after it happened. The redshirt freshman quarterback was beating himself up for not at least giving his guys a chance on fourth down, instead taking a sack that ended the game.
It was another learning experience for the first-year signal caller, who was making just his third career start, and the Badgers are hoping moments like that will pay off down the road, starting this week in Iowa City.
“Definitely not patient with that,” Hornibrook said of his improvement. “I want to be as good as I can every single day and I’m working to be as good as I can be every day. I’m not waiting for anything. I’m going to improve on everything I can from this past week and this season and try to be the best me on Saturday.”
5) Biegel back, but Sagapolu to miss the game
There was a lot of excitement surrounding the return of Vince Biegel after he missed the past two games following foot surgery last month, and deservedly so. As one of Wisconsin’s captains and among their bigger playmakers, the outside linebacker should provide a physical and emotional lift for a defense held their own in his absence.
But the bigger story on the injury front was nose guard Olive Sagapolu being ruled out with an arm injury. At 340 pounds, the sophomore has been vital to Wisconsin’s success against power run teams, and they’ll face another on Saturday against Iowa.
Though rarely talked about, Sagapolu takes on double teams almost every play in an effort to keep blockers off the linebackers, allowing them to flow to the ball. Without him in the lineup, that task will fall to players that don’t have the same physical presence. Sophomore Billy Hirschfeld and freshman Garrett Rand are both under 300 pounds, while another possible replacement, starting defensive end Conor Sheehy, comes in at 295.
How Sagapolu’s replacements fare could very well be a deciding factor in Saturday’s game.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
- In the last four games between the two rivals, the margin of victory has been just 6.5 points
- Wisconsin ranks first in the Big Ten and fifth nationally with just 3.7 penalties per game
- After rushing for 164 yards against Ohio State, running back Corey Clement moved into 14th place in the Badgers record book for career rushing yards with 2,200
- Wisconsin is on pace to have three players with at least 40 catches, which would be the first time since 2005 they’ve accomplished that.
Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Iowa 17, Wisconsin 14 (3-3 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Iowa 14 (3-3 on the season)
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: Wisconsin 31, Iowa 10 (4-2 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 21, Iowa 13 (3-3 on the season)
Eric Rogers’ prediction: Wisconsin 35, Iowa 21 (4-2 on the season)