In what will undoubtedly be their toughest road test of the season, the Wisconsin Badgers, No. 10 (6-1, 2-1) travel to Iowa City this weekend to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes, No. 12 (5-1, 2-0) at Kinnick Stadium at 2:30 Saturday afternoon.
The burning question is how the Badgers will respond to knocking off the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at Camp Randall this past weekend. Will they have a hangover and fall out of the Big Ten race? Or will they respond with back-to-back wins over ranked opponents and be set for a run at the Big Ten title?
This will be the last time the two teams battle for the Heartland Trophy til 2013 as the new Big Ten alignment puts them in different divisions. Emotions will be running high as both teams try to place the Trophy in their case for the next three years. The last Badger win in Iowa City was in 2006 when UW was lead to a 24-21 win by quarterback Tyler Donovan.
This years test will be equally tough for senior quarterback Scott Tolzien and the Badger offense as they face a stingy Hawkeye defense. The Hawks give up just 288 yards per game, good for 13th in the country. Even more impressive is they yeild only 13 points per game which ranks 6th in the nation. Much like Ohio State, the Hawks hang their hat on their front seven. They are lead by preseason All-American defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Despite facing many double teams, Clayborn has 28 tackles, including 5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. Two surprises on the line for Iowa has been the play of Karl Klug and Mike Daniels. Klug is a converted end who is a bit undersized at 270 pounds but has 29 tackles, with 6 coming for loss and 1.5 sacks. Daniels has generated the most push, recording eight tackles for loss with three sacks.
It’s up to the mammoth offensive line for Wisconsin to control the game like they did against Ohio State. Iowa gives up just 83 yards against the run per contest but are much more giving through the air, giving up 205 yards per game. Badger offensive coordinator Paul Chryst prepared an excellent gameplan that kept the Buckeyes off-balance last week. Just when they stacked eight in the box to stop John Clay and James White, Chryst dialed up a play-action pass for Tolzien. UW’s front is one of the biggest, experienced lines in the country. If they can control the line of scrimmage in a hostile environment against a tough Iowa defensive line, they’ll be in good shape.
On the other side of the ball, the Hawkeyes are lead by quarterback Ricky Stanzi. I’ve only seen Stanzi play briefly this year, but has he really grown up that much from last year? Here’s a guy who threw 15 interceptions in his junior season but just has two this year. Stanzi is completing over 68 percent of his throws for over 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns. He leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency and is playing mistake-free football thus far. What he hasn’t done is play like a defensive end like J.J. Watt. While guys like Cameron Heyward and Clayborn seemed to get all the preseason hype and accolades, Watt continues to go about his business and dominate opponents at the line of scrimmage. I’m not trying to be biased, but he has been the most impressive linemen I’ve seen in 2010.
The Iowa backfield has experienced some problems early in the year, leaving Adam Robinson as their primary back. Robinson has racked up over 600 yards to go along with eight touchdowns while getting 70 percent of the carries for Iowa. The other playmaker to be concerned about is reciever Derrell Johns0n-Koulianos who recently became Iowa’s all-time leader in recieiving yards and is second in the school’s history in catches. To date, he has 25 grabs for 404 yards with seven touchdowns in Iowa’s six games this year.
I believe this is a bigger test for the Badgers than Ohio State was last weekend. I know they were playing the #1 team in the country, I get that. But to travel to a tough road environment against a good football team is equally, if not harder. Throw in the Wisconsin-Iowa rivalry and this has the makings for a great football game. If UW plays like they did against OSU, Iowa will not stop them. Despite the Michigan State game, Wisconsin has controlled the game up front all season. I think the game comes down to the fourth quarter and will lie on the shoulders of the teams two quarterbacks. I think Stanzi will be under the type of pressure he hasn’t seen this year and he’ll make a critical fourth quarter mistake.
My Prediction: Wisconsin 23 Iowa 20
About the Author
Written by Chad Seely
Hey sports fans! Welcome to my Wisconsin Badgers football blog. For any Badger scores, news or questions you may have, come check out this blog! For those who don't know me, I'm a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. I graduated in May 2009 with a Broadcast Journalism degree and returned in Fall 2009 to get a Minor in Multimedia which I completed in May 2010. In the summer, you can catch me on AM1230 WSBB, splitting time as the play-by-play announcer and color commentator for the Daytona Cubs, the Advanced-A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.