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H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. Predicts: Wisconsin Badgers

The Badgers took OSU to overtime, but how will Iowa fare?

Hawk for Nerds
The computer in our parents’ basement is afraid of vermin.

I just want to get one thing out of the way up front: Iowa’s starters utterly dominated Purdue. The subbed-in second-string did not have the luxury of competing against Purdue’s second string. If they had, I seriously doubt this game would have even been within two touchdowns. Darrel Hazell was coaching for his job and was not going to pull his starters for anything and it was good for Iowa’s younger players to get more than a handful of meaningful snaps against another team’s starters (even if that team is Purdue). Yes, Iowa allowed 458 yards in the air. Yes, Purdue started to come back in the fourth quarter. Yes, Purdue was able to run 80 plays. However, almost 400 of the Boilermakers’ 505 yards came in the second half and 262 in the fourth quarter against Iowa’s second team on defense. The takeaway here is that that Iowa held a 42-14 lead until nine minutes were left in the game. This was a stomping, plain and simple, and the stats show as much.

Predicted Actual
Iowa Purdue Iowa Purdue
Passing Yards 165.0 275.0 155 458
Rushing Yards 218.8 154.2 365 47
Turnovers 2.0 2.6 0 1
Penalties 5.4 4.2 12 6
Offensive Plays 61.9 79.6 73 80
First Downs 17.2 24.0 24 24
Score 30 23 49 35

Iowa out-rushed Purdue by over 300 yards. Let’s look at at that another way: Iowa rushed for almost 8 times more yards than Purdue. The Hawks rushed for just a shade under seven yards per carry. That’s basically a first down every other time C.J. Beathard handed the ball off, which he did nearly 50 times. However, considering how quickly Purdue dropped their head coach, I think it’s safe to say that the Boilermakers pedestrian 3-3 record is actually vastly inflated. I would be surprised to see them pick up another win all season. Unfortunately, this means it is entirely plausible that Les Miles ends up West Lafayette by the end of the year.

So at the end of week seven, Iowa improves its record to 5-2 and H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. moves to 4-3, correctly predicting Iowa’s win over Purdue. This weekend, Iowa welcomes the Wisconsin Badgers to Kinnick Stadium in what will most certainly prove to be another edition of two lumberjacks playing bloody knuckles in a phone booth. The most worrisome thing about this match-up is that Wisconsin has managed to disrupt both passing and rushing offenses with their 3-4 look. In fact, Wisconsin has held their opponents to 23 fewer yards passing and 81 fewer yards rushing on average against teams like LSU, Ohio State, and Michigan. In fact, if you ignore their games against Akron, Michigan State and Georgia State, Wisconsin has held it’s opponents to approximately 110 yards under their season averages. This means Wisconsin’s defense was at its most effective against teams who boasted strong rushing offenses. I’m not very confident in Iowa’s ability to wear down the Badger linebackers, nor am I optimistic about the offensive line’s ability to protect Beathard against the pass rush. But what does the computer have to say about this game?

Iowa Wisconsin
Passing Yards 160.7 248.5
Rushing Yards 98.4 214.0
Turnovers 0.7 1.5
Penalties 6.1 4.0
Offensive Plays 57.2 77.5
First Downs 14.6 26.5
Score 17 28
Confidence 93%

Gross. So it looks like the model is really high on Wisconsin, expecting them to dominate the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. The most alarming prediction here is the 214 yards it expects from Wisconsin. I wish I could say I disagree. The one thing that I will say is going in Iowa’s favor here is that I think H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. is hugely mistaken in thinking Wisconsin will throw for 250 on Iowa’s defense. The model is simply responding to the 458 passing yards Purdue put up, most of it in garbage time. I also think that the tandem of Wadley and Daniels in the backfield will put up more than 98 yards on the ground. And they’ll need to if they want to have any chance of pulling off the upset. The final thing I would say here is that, for the first time, I am positive that the machine is expecting way more offense than is likely. Iowa-Wisconsin games are not known for their high scores and flair.

Only two games in this series have had a combined score of 50 or more since 2002. Most have had 30 or fewer combined points.

So while the glorified slide rule (very confidently) expects Wisconsin to win 28-17, I am expecting a closer, lower-scoring affair. Expect a healthy dose of Corey Clement probing Iowa’s interior as well as a lot of Jack Cichy and T.J. Watt attempting to wreak havoc in Iowa’s backfield. If I were a betting man, I would throw a decent sum on the under of this game, which is currently sitting at 42, only three points shy of what H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. predicts. I would say the likely outcome is a Wisconsin win in an old-fashioned Big Ten game with a score in the neighborhood of 24-13. What do you think? Let me know your score predictions in the comments below.