On Saturday, the Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-0) will host the Wisconsin Badgers (6-1, 2-1). Kick-off is at 2:36 p.m. CT. It will be televised on ABC for regional audiences and also on ESPN.
The two teams will be playing for the six-year old Heartland Trophy. Iowa is 4-2 in the Heartland series and with the Big Ten breaking into two divisions next year, the teams won’t meet again until 2013.
Last year, the Hawkeyes beat the Badgers 20-10.
Taking a look at Iowa’s injury list, middle linebacker Jeff Tarpinian will once again sit out this week with a stinger; Troy Johnson will start in his place and James Morris will back him up. Senior full back Brett Morse will return at fullback and freshman Mike Meyer again gets the nod for kicker.
And although he’s on the mend, Iowa’s defensive coordinator Norm Parker will not be back this week. He is slated to possibly return for the Indiana game in two weeks.
What are the challenges in this game? It’s going to be a defense (Iowa) versus offense (Wisconsin) game.The Hawkeyes allow a league-low 83.8 yards on the ground and is ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense (13.2), and seventh in rushing defense (83.8). Michigan’s two rushing touchdowns last week represented the first allowed by Iowa this season. Wisconsin is second in the league and 12th in the country with 232.7 rushing yards per game.
Does size matter? Wisconsin brings to the heartland an offensive line that appears devoted to the state’s hearty fare of cheese, brats and beer: the Badgers outweigh the Hawkeye’s defensive line by 40 pounds (an average of 320 pounds for the O-line as compared to Iowa’s petite defensive line at an average of 278 pounds).
Are two running backs better than one? Wisconsin has a successful duo with John Clay and James White. Junior Clay is averaging 113.7 yards a game and true freshman White brings 80 yards a game. Last year, Clay was the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Iowa has a one-man running back show with sophomore Adam Robinson. After losing his fellow running backs to unexplained reasons and injuries, the 5’9″ workhorse is fourth in the Big Ten with 623 yards and eight touchdowns along with third place finish with 129 carries.
Last week, Robinson ran for 143 yards, two touchdowns and 31 carries. On this week’s depth chart, Marcus Coker is listed as the second running back.
The Hawkeyes’ field general Ricky Stanzi has dramatically improved from last season with better decision making and less interceptions; last week he received honors for his play against Michigan. The senior quarterback was named by the conference as the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week by completing 17 passes for 248 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and zero turnovers. This is Stanzi’s first honor.
For the Badgers, senior quarterback Scott Tolzien completed 13 of 16 passes, 152 yards and one interception last week. He touts a quarterback rating of 159.9 and was described last week by The Columbus Dispatch as “perfectly suited to run Wisconsin’s think-run-first offense.”
And the last piece of the puzzle? Wisconsin’s head coach Bret Bielema.
Bielema is a Hawkeye alum who played on Iowa’s defense from 1989 to 1992. During his Wisconsin coaching tenure, he’s been especially fired up about playing Iowa and looking for the win. Bielema reportedly starting think about this week’s game 30 minutes after knocking off Ohio State.
The Badgers come to Kinnick to play against a team many say mirrors themselves and will try heartily to beat another team with a stellar record: Iowa is one of three teams without a conference loss. I think it will be a close game but I’m taking the Hawkeyes by 3 with a 27-24 win.
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Written by Debbie Baratz