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Iowa Football Opponent Preview: Wisconsin Badgers

Bring home the Heartland!

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Well … that was a whole lot of fun.

Last week, the Hawkeyes laid an absolute smackdown on Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes in what was a very much decisive 31-point victory.

With that said, a new week brings a new opponent, and this week’s opponent is none other than the 9-0 Wisconsin Badgers.

Over the years, this rivalry has been about as back and forth as you can get with the all-time series record being 45-43-2 in favor of Wisconsin. In addition, over the past six seasons, the road team has emerged from the contest as the victor; this game isn’t at Kinnick.

So, let’s take a look at what the undefeated Badgers are bringing to the table in this year’s contest.

Wisconsin On Offense

On offense, the most dangerous threat the Badgers possess is unquestionably freshman phenom running back Jonathan Taylor.

So far this season, Taylor has posted some ridiculous numbers out of the Badgers backfield, as he’s racked over 1,400 yards from scrimmage through only nine games, which also includes 12 touchdowns and a remarkable 7.3 yards per touch average; Taylor is just on another level compared to most college running backs.

As a runner, Taylor displays impressive patience, vision, balance, and physicality, as he’s able to break through arm and ankle tackles with consistency; if you’re Iowa’s defense, you better be wrapping up this weekend. In addition, Taylor is an explosive athlete who gets up to top speed very quickly. The one area Taylor has struggled and the area the Hawkeyes may look to take advantage is in terms of ball security, as Taylor has been prone to cough up the ball on occasion this season.

With that said, Taylor is an incredibly talented football player and should find a way to produce against what has been a stout Hawkeye defense this season.

In the passing game, the Badgers have been relatively average this season, as sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook has been serviceable but not much more than that.

As a passer, Hornibrook is one of the more efficient passers in the Big Ten and displays flashes of good ball placement and accuracy. However, his biggest flaw comes in the form of turnovers, as he has a tendency to force passes and try to do too much when being contacted, and it has resulted in nine interceptions through nine games this season.

Coming into this week’s game, the Badgers will be dealing with a major hit to their receiving corps, as sophomore receiver Quintez Cephus was lost for the season with a leg injury. This is a huge loss for the Badgers passing game, as Cephus has accounted for nearly 30 percent of the Badgers yards this season, including six touchdowns. The loss of Cephus leaves the Badgers without a whole lot of quality targets left in the passing game. However, the offense still has senior star tight end Troy Fumagalli and sophomore A.J. Taylor.

Last week, the Hawkeyes made J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes pay for forcing passes late and while under pressure, as they ended up intercepting the Heisman hopeful four times in the contest. With the receiving corps dealing with a major blow in the loss of Cephus and Hornibrook at the helm, there’s a lot of potential for another big day for the Hawkeyes defense.

Wisconsin On Defense

On defense, the Badgers, as always, are well-coached and fully-equipped to shut down opposing offenses.

Coming into this week’s contest, the Badgers currently rank top five nationally in total defense, run defense, scoring defense, and sacks with 31, despite coming into the season without star power talent such as T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel, Jack Cichy, etc. whether it be due to NFL declaration, graduation, or injury.

This year, the Badgers on defense are led by senior defensive end Alec James, senior edge rusher Garret Dooley, senior linebacker T.J. Edwards, senior cornerback Derrick Tindal, and junior D’Cota Dixon who is officially listed as questionable for this Saturday’s contest.

With the combination of James and Dooley, the Hawkeyes will be facing a tandem that can really explode off the ball and get after the passer, and even though the Hawkeyes’ offensive line has been pretty sound in pass protection this season, it’ll still be a major challenge defending those two on the edge.

In addition, the Badgers defense was also hit by the injury bug last week when starting inside linebacker Chris Orr went down with a leg injury. If anything, that helps the Hawkeyes chances of being able to move the ball on the ground against this Badgers front seven. However, Edwards is still an immensely talented player and the Badgers still have more than enough talent to keep the Hawkeyes running game from doing too much damage.

What To Expect

If the Hawkeyes are to pull are to pull off an upset this Saturday, it’ll be on the heels of their defense and more specifically on their ability to force turnovers, as I don’t know how many points the Hawkeyes will be able to muster on their own.

This season the Badgers have given up more than 17 points one time and as their record still reflects, they were able to win that one game.

If the Hawkeyes wish to have success on offense, the offensive, specifically on the edge, will have to hold up and give Nate Stanley time to air it out downfield, as the Badgers, without or with a hobbled safety in D’Cota Dixon, are more than susceptible to give up a big play.

With all that said, in this game, there’s no reason to expect anything other than physicality from both teams on both sides of the ball. Buckle up, this should be a fun one!