clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Iowa Football: Behind Enemy Lines With the Wisconsin Badgers

The Hawkeyes have a must-win game in Madison Saturday. What should Iowa fans expect from the Badgers?

Iowa v Wisconsin
The last time the Hawkeyes went to Madison, it was not great.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

This football season, as in years past, we’ll be going behind enemy lines each week to ask some of the tough questions, the really hard-hitting ones. Sometimes, we may even go over the line.

We’d also like to know what you’re interested in learning about each opponent. So hit us on social media with some questions you’d like us to ask each upcoming opponent. Slide in the DMs, @ us or use the hashtag #overthelinebhgp and we’ll ask our weekly guests your questions.

The Hawkeyes are well-rested and coming off a bye week as they prepare for a trip to Madison this week. Unfortunately for them, the Badgers are also coming off a bye and after back-to-back losses and with the driver’s seat for the Big Ten West title on the line, they’re sure to be fired up. To help us get an idea of what we can all expect for this year’s annual rock fight with Wisconsin, we went behind enemy lines with our mortal enemies friends from Bucky’s 5th Quarter. Here to give us the inside scoop is Tyler Hunt!

BHGP: Iowa has had their struggles with Wisconsin over the last several years with the Badgers winning 6 of the last 7 meetings and the last three straight. What’s different about this Wisconsin team from the last couple years?

B5Q: Quite honestly I don’t think there is a huge difference from some of the teams like 2016 or 2017 compared to this team. I think 2018 was really an outlier year for the Badgers but at the same time Wisconsin was still playing ok football when these two met last season. As a positive, I think the defense has returned to the traditional form of fundamentally sound and disciplined defense. As a negative, I don’t think this team has been as dominating up front this season at least in the last few appearances. I know that was a main focus for Wisconsin in this bye week.

BHGP: Wisconsin, like Iowa, is built around being able to run the ball. Unlike Iowa, however, Wisconsin is very good at it this year. It’s unlikely the Hawkeyes stop the Badgers’ running game, but how can they slow it down?

B5Q: Wisconsin hasn’t ran the ball up to Wisconsin standard the last three weeks and I think that is because defense’s have sold out more than ever before to stop Jonathan Taylor. Pat Fitzgerald created the mold for a defense that stops JT, and its simply by keying on him with heavy front’s at the line and making the Badgers offense get more creative to move the ball and score. It’s worked for teams the last few weeks and in turn the Badgers have been on the wrong side of the W/L column in those games. Last year Iowa sold out to slow the run and made Wisconsin throw the ball to score points. I think that in short is the only way to do it.

BHGP: Outside of Jonathan Taylor, who is a star, who should Iowa fans know about on the Wisconsin offense?

B5Q: On the offensive side of the football I don’t know if there has been a star in 2019 other than JT and that’s simply because they’ve relied so heavily on his ground attack. Wisconsin has a talented and deep receiving core with names like Danny Davis and A.J. Taylor but we really haven’t seen a ton of them this year. Jake Ferguson at tight end is fully healthy now and is probably the closest 2nd star and option for this offense. On defense, they’ve had a lot of guys play well but Zack Baun is the star on the edge and Chris Orr is the star on the inside.

BHGP: On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense has been a nightmare for the Hawkeyes. That doesn’t appear to be an issue for only the Hawkeyes as Wisconsin boasts the 4th best scoring defense nationally, allowing just 11.4 points per game after giving up 38 to Ohio State. How were the Buckeyes successful and is there something the Hawkeyes can do to replicate that production with lower-caliber athletes?

B5Q: I don’t think anyone can replicate what Ohio State is simply because, well, they’re Ohio State and I think they’re the best team in the country right now. The athletes they have far exceed anything Wisconsin or Iowa has, but there is one concept that can work in opposing teams’ favor: play action. Last year Iowa hit some big throws off play action and Ohio State did the same. It may not be the same system or talent, but it works when you have to make the linebacker’s and corner’s freeze and pay attention to more than one thing. I think that mixed with speed really gives Jim Leonhard’s defense trouble at times.

BHGP: What matchup do you expect the Badgers to most be able to exploit on Saturday?

B5Q: I think the Badgers will really show their strength against the run defensively. It appears Iowa is somewhat used to not having a run game that they can rely on, so maybe that isn’t a big deal. Still, I think the Badgers will make it hard to run on and force the arm of Nate Stanley to beat them.

BHGP: Which one has you most nervous?

B5Q: I think what worries me the most about Iowa is the defensive line as the Hawkeyes have two first round caliber guys on there. The front seven for Iowa has collectively played well while teams like Ohio State have relied on the dominance of Chase Young. I don’t see much of a hole in Iowa’s front seven, so given the Badgers inability to run the ball these past few weeks I am a bit nervous for how that goes, and if it doesn’t go well, what happens.

BHGP: Do Wisconsin fans care more about the ax or the bull?

B5Q: The Ax is, I think, the coolest trophy in sports so I would say that. However until this year it’s been in Madison for half my life so I think fans got a little greedy with it. I think given that Iowa and Wisconsin always are pretty good, the rivalry is bigger there. However, as Minnesota appears to develop that will probably change back. Still, we’ll gladly keep the Bull if that’s ok!!

BHGP: Is Spotted Cow overrated, underrated or properly rated?

B5Q: Really it depends what kind of spotted cow. Spotted Cow in cans is trash, but a good fresh cold bottle is hard to beat in my opinion. It’s good but it isn’t the best beer ever like some people think. It’s terms of the college football rankings like a Utah. If we’re talking good beers though, Ruthie from Exile Brewing Co is hard to beat! Had to give that a shoutout!

BHGP: OK, prediction time. Wisconsin opened up as 9 point favorites. In eastern Iowa, local sports books have Wisconsin -8. Do the Badgers cover? Can the Hawkeyes pull off the upset? What are you predicting?

B5Q: I actually live over the border in Dubuque, Iowa so I was very happy to have the Diamond Jo Casino down the street from me open a book up. I think the line is interesting, but at more than seven I would say the Badgers do not cover. I write a weekly betting preview at B5Q, and I struggle to see why the line is that many points given the history of these two teams. If you look at the average margin of victory in this game for either team it’s around 11.8 points per game, but if you take out the 24 point win for Wisconsin in 2017 it drops it to 6.5 ppg. That’s where I expected the line to be. I think it will be a classic slugfest type game, but I am taking the Badgers 24-17.

So there you have it, another knock down, drag out fight with a team that has been better suited for those rock fights for the last several years. Hooray beer!

Special thanks to Tyler Hunt and everyone over at B5Q. Be sure to follow Tyler on the twitters @TylerLHunt and the main Bucky’s 5th Quarter account @B5Q. They’ve got plenty of Iowa content over behind enemy lines this week so be sure to check it out. That includes the keys to beating Iowa from their perspective, as written by Tyler. They also have a great podcast up previewing the game that features our own Dave Creagh from SpoCo Radio (subscribe, rate, review, etc. etc.).

Go Hawks!