Opponent: Wisconsin Badgers (3-1, 0-0 B1G West; No. 19 AP, No. 18 Coaches)
Saturday, October 3, 11 a.m., Camp Randall Stadium, Madison WI
Television: ESPN (national coverage)
Kickoff weather: 55 degrees, partly cloudy, with temperatures approaching 60.
Tabetha: OH MY GODDDDD I'M SO HAPPY YOU GUYS ARE COMING TO TOWWWWN IT'S BEEN FOREVER ARE YOU TAILGATING LEMME KNOW
WHEN WISCONSIN HAS THE BALL
Our old friend Joel Stave, who is now in his seventeenth year of eligibility, quarterbacks the Badgers one last time. Stave is fully over the yips that haunted him for the first half of last season, and he's sporting a perfectly acceptable 147.5 QB rating, good for 40th in the nation thus far. Senior wideout Alex Erickson has emerged as Stave's favorite target, and Erickson leads the Badgers with 23 catches and 320 yards, plus one score. No other Wisconsin player has more than 10 catches on the season.
We should point out that Wisconsin's running game will be hampered by the continuing absence of Corey Clement, who recently underwent surgery for a sports hernia suffered during Week 1 that refused to heal on its own. Clement has touched the ball all of 10 times this season, so it's not as if Wisconsin is scrambling to adjust its play strategy in the run-up to the Iowa game.
One of Clement's replacements is junior Dare Ogunbowale, who moved over from cornerback to help shore up depth in the backfield. In the three games without Clement's presence, Ogunbowale has averaged 15 carries for over 90 yards, plus one touchdown per game, so Wisconsin's bread and butter is still the ground game even without an All-B1G-caliber dynamo back there.
Of course, Ogunbowale is just one man, and the Badgers have long leaned on multiple running backs to wear down opposing defenses. Fortunately, freshman tailback Taiwan Deal has taken up the slack, and I guess you could say he's got a Taipei personality!
Tabetha: I DON'T GET IT
I... it's a pun, a play on w—
Tabetha: HE ISN'T FROM THERE IT'S JUST HIS NAME
I know, but—
Tabetha: OMG GET IT RIGHT
WHEN IOWA HAS THE BALL
C.J. Beathard continues to impress, connecting on all 15 of his passes in the first half of the North Texas laugher and now sitting at No. 23 in QB efficiency. His 8.74 yards per attempt, if they hold up, will be the best a Kirk Ferentz team has seen from its starting QB since Brad Banks finished at 8.751 in 2002.
Of course, Wisconsin's defense is not North Texas' defense or Iowa State's defense. Through four games it's virtually identical to Pitt's; the Panthers allow 291.7 yards per game and Wisconsin gives up 292.3 (Iowa's total defense, if you're curious, is two spots below Wisconsin at No. 20 in the nation ALLLLLL the way down at 294.8 yards per). Wisconsin's rush defense is slightly stingier at 82.8 (Pitt boasts 92.0 per) but even that might be underselling the Badger front; against teams not named Alabama, teams are rushing 25 times per game for all of 31 yards per, and no touchdowns—the Badgers have only allowed one red zone appearance in those three games, and Wisconsin quickly sacked Hawaii back out of the red zone en route to a missed field goal and an eventual shutout. So, yeah.
There's little in the way of weak spots in the Wisconsin defense. The secondary boasts over 100 career starts by itself, including 60 from the cornerback duo of Darius Hillary and Sojourn Shelton; they're likely to give Beathard and the Iowa receivers some hot hell on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin's 3-4 defensive front isn't quite as experienced (the only senior is OLB stalwart Joe Schobert) but they're active and disruptive. The Badgers don't get much statistical production from their DL trio of Arthur Goldberg, Conor Sheehy and Chikwe Obasih but what the linemen do is free up the linebackers to make plays all over the field. Schobert leads the Big Ten with six sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss already, and altogether four of Wisconsin's top five tacklers are its starting linebackers.
Iowa's tackles are in for another monstrous challenge, as the other OLB is Vince Biegel, who has 5.5 TFLs and two QB sacks of his own.
Tabetha: OMG I LOVE BEAGLES THEY ARE SO CUTE
I hear what you're saying, but they bark so much
Tabetha: WHY DO YOU HATE DOGS
That is so unfair—
Tabetha: HANG ON MYCKENZYE IS TEXTING ME IT'S ABOUT SATURDAY
Oh, what's she doing for the game?
Tabetha: NO, LAST SATURDAY
Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn has won a game with a 57-yard field goal and is 4-4 on the year despite having no attempts from inside 40 yards. His two punts for a 56.5-yard average would easily lead the Big Ten if he had enough punts to qualify for the lead; instead teammate Dillon Kidd (47.9 yards per attempt) leads the conference. Desmond King averages 84 yards per game in return yardage between kickoffs and punts despite only touching the ball four times per game. All of which is to say, Iowa's special teams unit is wholly legit for the first time in way, way too long.
Wisconsin's kicker is this.
Tabetha: OMG I DON'T KNOW IF HE'S HOT OR GROSS I HEARD HE'S FROM SOUTH AFRICA SO THAT'S KINDA EXOTIC
South America. He's Brazilian.
Tabetha: THOSE ARE $45 AT NEW SUN IF YOU HAVE A COUPON, IT'S RIGHT OFF CAMPUS
No—I mean he—
Tabetha: THEY HURT SO BAD THOUGH
Tabetha: SORRY BUT YOU ASKED
Wisconsin 23, Iowa 17 (sorry)
Tabetha: GOOD CALL BTW I'M GOING DOWNTOWN DO YOU WANT WINGS OR NOT