They are areas that have remained basic principles of each program for decades and provide Saturday’s matchup between the two teams with a bit of a retro vibe. Since that time, the Badgers have won three straight over Miami (OH), Troy and Hawaii.
Iowa and Wisconsin have battled for the Heartland Trophy since 2004.
This is the big one this week.
Why they won’t win it: Iowa has underachieved for years and its two wins over Power Five opponents were against so-so competition (Iowa State and Pitt). Coaches will tell you it doesn’t matter how they score, just as long as they get seven points at the end. That is pretty good.
The Cornhuskers had a pair of outside hitters named to the preseason all-Big Ten squad in senior Kelsey Fien and junior Kadie Rolfzen. On 21 red zone trips, Wisconsin has 15 touchdowns and 4 field goals. The over/under for this game is 44.5 total points. If Beathard is as productive as he’s been all season, the Hawkeyes will have a chance to pull the upset. While both the Hawkeyes and Badgers are known for their ground-and-pound style, the two have been quite offensive through four games.
Wisconsin has been workmanlike after opening the year with a 35-17 loss to Alabama. If the Hawkeyes don’t hold onto the football, they will lose this game. The two fullbacks helped clear the way for 326 yards. It was a crucial victory for Wisconsin, as defeating Iowa (and Minnesota one week later) secured them a spot in the Big Ten Championship.
The Badgers, for their part, have also benefited this year from stronger quarterback play. He threw the ball downfield and scrambled to make first downs and touchdowns.
Without the big plays, that identity has been about trying to sustain drives. Wisconsin actually one-upped the Hawkeyes in the game of fullbacks.
On defense, Iowa played very well. Joel Stave completed 14 of 23 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown. It’s an inside running drill that includes a fullback leading a play to the weakside. Their explosiveness statistic (via Football Study Hall’s advanced stats) is 118th in the country. “But my freshman year we lost 10 matches and we played on the last day of the season”.
Overall, Iowa matches up fairly well with Wisconsin but do not let Iowa’s 4-0 record fool you, this is a team with a few holes. They lack unsafe skill position players in the passing game.
This week, the Badgers face a tough test from an Iowa team that’s better than nearly anyone anticipated.
“Iowa is always a game that we really need to stay focused on”, Mitchell said. The aggressive Badger linebackers will control the game early on. How Beathard handles that may determine the game. “(But) our left-side blocking needs to get better … and we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on that this week”. He leads the B1G in touchdowns, with 8 (the next highest is 5) and has stepped up with LeShun Daniels limited. Last season against the Badgers, Canzeri finished with 32 rushing yards on eight carries. He’s been a huge difference as a returner and has consistently been Iowa’s best defender.
Canzeri, who has also set career bests with 13 catches for 145 yards, deflected much of the credit for his performance to his offensive line and fullbacks.
Coming off its first conference win against then-No. Facing a 4th-and-4 situation from their own 26, the Badgers gambled but executed “Chains” to near perfection.
A key aspect of selling the fake itself was Nortman looking like he was going to punt. What will the new wrinkle on offense be? (Sorry). Iowa has a good run defense that’s most effective against pro-style teams like Wisconsin.
“Yeah, you really do”, Fisher said with a laugh.
Iowa comes out and throws the ball a lot.
“So we noticed that on film and all week we put a call in and called it ‘Chains, ‘ because we determined that if we ran it, it was going to move the chains”, former Wisconsin and current Carolina Panthers punter Brad Nortman said.