In one of the most evenly-split and bitter rivalries you’ll find anywhere in college football, our Hawkeyes host the hated red cheeseheads from up north this Saturday. The last time Iowa walked out of its own stadium with a win over Bucky, it was led by Shonn Greene in 2008. That’s a long time to wait for a home win against any rival, but especially one like Wisconsin. Thanks to a three-game win streak from 2012-14, Wisconsin holds an all time lead in the series 44-43-2.
There are usually so many good backstories to this game. There was the Barry Alvarez connection. The Bielema connection. The Melvin Gordon saga. Dominant rushing attacks and gnashing defenses. The game is usually a downright slugfest, old school Big 10 style. In fact, the schools have met 12 times since 2002 and the winning team has only eclipsed 30 points 3 times in that span.
But there’s always something I have quietly envied about the Badgers. Not only in football, but basketball as well, the programs feel very similar in terms of style, type of athlete, rabid fanbase, etc. It feels like the two should be equals. But frankly, they haven’t been for the last 10 years or so. I don’t have to mention the basketball teams’ differences, but in that time, the football Badgers have won three B1G titles, appeared in three Rose Bowls and had two Doak Walker winners. This is all while changing coaches three times (five if you count ole Barry stepping in for bowl games twice).
I don’t know about the rest of the Hawkeye faithful, but I still look at the 2010 Wisconsin game (“The Fake Punt”) as the beginning of the 4+ year spiral the Hawkeyes embarked on until last year. That’s all I have to say about that.
And that’s what made last year so sweet. An absolute defensive brawl in which Iowa’s D made just enough plays to beat Bucky at its own game...in its own stadium. So let’s relive it shall we? Despite being outgained by 100 yards, Iowa’s D forced 4 Badger turnovers (lol Joel Stave), leading to all 10 Hawkeye points, while only allowing 6 points. It was a great day for them.
How did Wisconsin’s season go? Pretty well. Wisconsin finished the regular season 9-3 and all three of those losses came to teams that finished in the top 25: Alabama, Iowa, and Northwestern. Wisconsin was #1 in the nation in scoring defense at 13.7 ppg and proceeded to beat USC in the Holiday Bowl to finish the season at 10-3. Afterwards, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda left for LSU and was replaced with Justin Wilcox. Based on how their season has gone so far, it seems Wisconsin’s D has not missed a beat.
Who played well for the Badgers? All-American LB Joe Schobert unleashed hell on the Hawkeye offense to the tune of three sacks, two forced fumbles, and 8 total tackles. And that’s really about it. No rusher eclipsed 60 yards and Stave had decent yardage but threw two picks as well.
Who played well for the Hawkeyes? The legend of Desmond King continued to grow in this game. He had both of Stave’s interceptions, as well as two pass breakups. Cole Fisher also had an outstanding day with 14 total tackles, one of which was for loss, and a half sack. Jordan Canzeri was also a beast, going for 125 yards on 26 carries on a Badger D that prides itself on stopping runners in their tracks.
Who is returning that gave the Hawks trouble last time? Fortunately, Schobert is gone. Leading tackler from a year ago, Vince Biegel, is questionable to return this week. Leading receiver from a year ago, Dare Ogunbuwale is also returning this year. All in all, it’s a young team, but are definitely exceeding expectations this year.
Bonus Highlights (2004 team wins a share of the B1G):