The title of this one is about all the woofing we'll do at the Badgers, because we are completely unenthusiastic about this game and the task in front of Iowa. In fact, we'll eschew the typical matchup approach we usually do and just focus on a few problems, one at a time.
Iowa's rush defense has quite a challenge in front of them. We're mighty big fans of both Karl Klug and Broderick Binns, who are pass rushers nonpareil and some of the most tenacious d-fenders on the team. The problem is that part of the reason that Iowa's rush defense has been so underwhelming this year is because Klug and Binns can't move a line of scrimmage on run plays. It's not really a matter of poor technique, necessarily, but being that they barely combine to break five bills, they can be moved by a talented lineman. Sure, they might shed a block, but unless it directly results in a tackle, all they're doing is letting the lineman get to the next level and harass a linebacker.
Some pundits think the fact that Wisconsin doesn't run a spread or design runs for the quarterback works in Iowa's favor. Maybe, but probably not as much as they think. If Iowa has any success against the run, it'll be because Zach Brown isn't there to keep John Clay's legs fresh for four quarters and their third string tailback is Jamelle Notonthedepthchartforareason.
Iowa has won all six of their games, yes, but in five of them, the defense was tasked with stopping a big drive late in the game. In four of those five games, the defense failed. Against UNI, the special teams bailed Iowa out twice. Against Arizona, backup quarterback Nick Foles shredded Iowa with disturbing ease en route to pushing the game within 10. Against Penn State, okay, watching Clark's confidence self-immolate was cool. Against A-State, the Red Wolves cut a lead to three by converting third down after third down. Against Michigan, Denard Robinson put together a not-that-difficult 4th quarter drive to cut the lead to two after standing on the sideline the entire game. This is not a good fourth-quarter pattern. Do you really trust Iowa to slam the door on Wisconsin with the game on the line? We kind of don't.
At the very least, we can point to the fact that Iowa's linebackers and safeties are experienced, returning starters; it's going to take more than a simple playfake to get someone wide open, in other words. So the good news is that Tolzien probably won't shred Iowa's pass defense. The bad news is that he probably won't need to.
A magnificent bastard is still a bastard all the same. Oh, Ricky Stanzi. Heismanzi has now rang up over 280 yards of passing in each of his last two games, each with some sweet long balls (LOL). He has also given away a touchdown in those games. That's fine to do against a creampuff pushover like A-State or just Michigan, but it's going to be horror if Iowa finds itself down 7-3... then it turns into 14-3 because Ricky tried to out-STANZIBALL himself (though it'll be hard to ever top his last two achievements, each stunning in their ineptitude).
At the same time, it's easily possible that DJK gets a little bit more with the program and the vaunted Iowa wideout corps actually puts together a good game and Iowa gets a few touchdowns. But considering nobody on the team averages at least 50 yards of receiving a game, this would be, ahem, unexpected.
Clogging rushing lanes like so many local fans' arteries. As Hlas pointed out in yesterday's chat, Wisconsin hasn't allowed 100 rushing yards to a Big Ten opponent yet this season. Okay, granted, OSU spent the entire day scoring without letting Pryor even take a snap, and Minnesota and Michigan State are pretty miserable. Buuut then you look at Iowa's backfield and it's two guys splitting carries--neither of whom are named Jewel or Jeff or Shonn or LaDainian (hey, we can dream). They've been somewhat productive and they don't suck, but Brandon Wegher has been largely bottled up by good defenses, and Adam Robinson is just begging for a disastrous strip from behind with the way he runs the ball. They'll probably get to that 100-yard mark, just based on the way Iowa approaches a game, but 150 seems more than a little iffy. Also, their three combined first downs in the entire Michigan game are another disconcerting omen).
At the same time, Ferentz is still juggling his line, which is historically a bad omen for success, and Bryan Bulaga doesn't look like even an approximation of his dominant 2008 self. Whether it's his thyroid still bugging him or just rust or some nagging injury--whatever--he's not blowing guys off the ball anymore. NFL scouts can't be impressed--and, we're guessing, neither are Ferentz or Reese Morgan.
All of which is to say there isn't a ton going right for Iowa in this game. Scott Tolzien struggled mightily against OSU and their tough front seven, which bodes well for Iowa, but the odds that Sco-Tolz (we just made that nickname up, believe it or not) is going to throw a pick-six in another game in a row are probably so remote that... well, we'll probably have to call up George Wine for this one.
And why does it have to be an 11:00 a.m. game? Seriously, damn it guys. And it's at the same time as the Red River Shootout. Such bullshit.
Prediction time: The Hawks are going to have to be as stout as ever on defense, because the offense isn't likely to give them a ton of help. That's not to say there's no chance Iowa gets to 27 or 28 points, but it's far more likely that they struggle to get to half that total. And really, any team would struggle to put 13.5 points on a scoreboard.
Nearly every independent pundit is giving Wisconsin the win in a close game. We--okay, I--think it'll be something closer to 27-16. It's tough to trust Iowa to get into the end zone and make the most of their red zone opportunities, and this smallish defensive line is the perfect target for the line-em-up and run-straight-ahead John Clay attack. It makes us sick to write all that and we hope we're wrong.