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Behind Enemy Lines: Bucky’s 5th Quarter Discusses Iowa - Wisconsin Football

Iowa has a chance to spoil Wisconsin’s hopes at a perfect season. Can they do it?

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawkeyes got their season back on track in the biggest way last weekend with a huge win against Ohio State, and they can turn what looked to be a lost season a couple weeks ago into a season worth remembering with a victory this upcoming weekend against Wisconsin. Most importantly, they can play spoiler to the Badgers, who are 9-0 thus far on the year and haven’t played anyone of note.

To get a better idea of who Wisconsin is this season, we talked to Jake Kocorowski from Bucky’s 5th Quarter, SB Nation’s premier Wisconsin Badgers blog. In our Q&A, we asked if Wisconsin is for real, what to expect from Alex Hornibrook, who has been bitten by the injury bug, and of course, for a prediction.

Max: Wisconsin is 9-0 this season, but much has been made of their schedule, as they've yet to play a ranked team until this week. Would this team be able to hang with the best in the nation, or are they like 2015 Iowa in that they're extremely lucky to dodge the powers of the East?

Jake: Technically, Wisconsin defeated Northwestern, who came in at No. 25 in the second College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night. Yes, that was back on Sept. 30, but still counts, right? Iowa does pose the biggest challenge to this team to this point, especially fresh off that win against Ohio State.

With the injuries to key positions like wide receiver and inside linebacker, the depth has been tested, but has held up right now with the program's "next man up" mentality that is cliched, but for Wisconsin, true. Despite the lack of strength of schedule, the Badgers could compete with some of the best in the nation. The defense is a top-five, top-ten unit who has created turnovers and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks (and has four pick-six touchdowns this season--tied for most in the FBS). The biggest question mark is if the offense can actually become consistent enough and avoid turnovers and penalties. Despite some of these inconsistent performances, they've still averaged over 36 points per game so far.

Max: Alex Hornibrook started off the season hot, but has come back to earth a bit recently in Big Ten play. What does he do well this season and what still needs to be improved upon?

Jake: Starting off on what he needs to improve on, there are at least one or two, what I call "oopsy" plays per game committed by Hornibrook. A errant throw that results in an interception, possibly a fumble, something that puts a damper on an otherwise decent performance (and infuriates a fan base). He's thrown interceptions in seven of the nine wins this year, and that includes eight during Big Ten play--which with Joshua Jackson and the Hawkeyes' defense second in the conference in that category, will be something to watch. Some also call out his arm strength, but it's more than enough for the college game (and has improved from last year). Get him out of rhythm, however, and that will disrupt the offense if the running game is contained.

The positives outweigh the negatives. He's completed 64.4 percent of his passes this season and is ninth in the nation among Power Five quarterbacks in pass efficiency rating (second in the conference behind Ohio State's J.T. Barrett). He's accurate most of the time, and he can be clutch on third down passes in moving the chains (the reason why he started some games last season in taking over for Bart Houston against Georgia State before their quarterback platoon). In the red zone, he's completed over 70 percent of his throws for 12 touchdowns and only one interception (efficiency rating 271.9 -- best in the FBS with at least 15 red zone attempts).

Max: Jonathan Taylor is an absolute DUDE - he's rushed for over 1,300 yards and 12 TDs already this season. Is there any way the Hawkeyes can contain him this upcoming week?

Jake: Taylor is a freshman phenom, and to be honest, I didn't see this coming when we were able to watch fall camp practices for the first couple of weeks in August, as Bradrick Shaw and Chris James were the tandem that were supposed to lead the rushing attack (he exploded into the picture once they closed practices to the media). He has shown a vision, patience and maturity beyond his years, and combine that with his college-ready physical strength and speed, makes him an incredible force behind an improved offensive line.

In terms of schemes, it should bear watching how Iowa looks to stop the rushing attack. I believe the secondary of Iowa is good enough to contain Wisconsin's injured wide receiving corps, allowing them to focus in on slowing down Wisconsin's rushing attack. If there is one area that Taylor can improve on, it's working on securing the ball. He's lost three fumbles this year. He's shown the ability to bounce back relatively quickly, though.

Max: The Badgers have quite the injury report heading into the battle for the Heartland Trophy. Who's out and how does it affect Wisconsin's plans?

Jake: The win at Indiana came at a price, as two key contributors will be out for the Iowa game. Inside linebacker Chris Orr (left leg) and wide receiver Quintez Cephus (right leg) were lost during last week's game. We don't know for how long on either. Orr was part of the three-man rotation at the position with T.J. Edwards and former walk-on Ryan Connelly after Jack Cichy was lost for the season during fall camp. Edwards and Connelly will start this week, who are more than capable of holding their own, but junior Arrington Farrar--who just moved to the position from safety in the spring--could work into the rotation.

Cephus leads the team in reception yards and touchdown catches and is tied for the team lead in receptions. He's a budding star in this offense, and his loss will be substantial. A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor will have to step up again, especially with seniors Jazz Peavy and George Rushing out as well. The good thing with Wisconsin is that its tight ends, led by All-American candidate Troy Fumagalli, have three more-than-capable contributors. UW's two fullbacks in Austin Ramesh and Alec Ingold also have the ability to contribute both in the rushing and passing games.

Starting strong safety D'Cota Dixon is questionable after exiting the Indiana game during the first half, but safety Joe Ferguson (grandson of Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez) has stepped up huge. The former walk-on leads the team in interceptions with four, including three in the last two games.

A new injury to watch is reserve nose tackle Garrett Rand, who was seen on crutches and a boot after Tuesday's practice. He's a contributor on defense in relieving starter Olive Sagapolu, but a report noted he has been playing through a torn ligament in his foot.

Max: Finish this sentence: Wisconsin will win if ______ or lose if _______.

Jake: Wisconsin will win if it doesn't shoot itself in the foot with penalties and turnovers on offense. That has stunted the ability and effectiveness of Paul Chryst's unit and not allowed for more decisive victories, and they're facing an Iowa team that racked up four Barrett interceptions last week.

The Badgers' defense has 14 interceptions and five fumble recoveries so far this year. If they contain the Iowa run game and limit Noah Fant and Iowa's tight ends, they will keep the Heartland Trophy

Wisconsin will lose if they cough up the ball twice, as they will have a tough time digging themselves of a hole. I really feel this game will be dictated by turnovers. Both teams are good at generating them at the right time.

Max: Prediction time - who's going to take home the trophy this weekend?

Jake: Despite the injuries and the fact the road team has won the last six match-ups between these teams dating back to 2009, I think this Wisconsin team has something special. The next man up mentality is real, and the players and coaching staff aren't looking ahead to Michigan or Minnesota or who could await them at the Big Ten Championship game. They're focused on Iowa and know it will be a physical match-up on both sides of the ball.

I feel Wisconsin's run defense should be able to thwart the Hawkeyes' rushing attack, with its secondary containing the receivers. The key will be stopping that run game then stopping Iowa's tight ends. I think UW can do that. Offensively, someone will have to step up in the passing game, and Hornibrook has to limit his "oopsy" plays against an opportune defense. Taylor should get some yards on the ground, but Fumagalli and Co. will have to help their quarterback in the passing game and on third down, where the Hawkeyes only allow 31.3 percent of opponents' conversions (third-best in the Big Ten).

With that mindset, Wisconsin wins 24-14, though if Iowa takes the ball away a few times, the Hawkeyes will take away the Badgers' hopes for any talk of the College Football Playoff.

Thanks to Jake for his time and insight! Of course, I hope the Hawkeyes throw nine hundred points on your team. For more on all things Wisconsin, check out Bucky’s 5th Quarter and find them on Twitter at @B5Q. Go Hawks.