It seems like just yesterday we were all excited at finally being able to move forward with a Big Ten football season. Now, just 8 short weeks later, the regular season is coming to an end as the Hawkeyes host the Wisconsin Badgers on senior day.
Iowa hasn’t won this matchup since they went unbeaten in the regular season back in 2015. Can they get it done this year? Maybe! The staff is perhaps as split as we’ve been all season on this one with four of us taking Wisconsin and three taking the Hawks. Vegas seems to agree that this will be a tight one. Iowa opened as 1-point favorites, but have now fallen to 1-point underdogs at home. The over/under is set at a very low 42.
At the Pants, we’re collectively taking the Badgers straight up, but not to cover. On average, we’re predicting a final score of Wisconsin 18, Iowa 17. But that includes rounding. The raw average is closer to 17.5-17, meaning we’re taking the points for Iowa if you can get them. It also below the already low over/under.
Here’s a look at our individual predictions.
As much as I think it would be terribly on brand for Iowa to win this weekend while Northwestern chokes just so we can play the what-if game for a generation, I still don’t have faith in this team to beat Wisconsin. Is the offense the second best scoring offense in the Big Ten? Yes. Do I believe they can sustain that against the Badgers? No.
Wisconsin has long given Iowa fits and Brian Ferentz has yet to show us he knows how to attack them. Spencer Petras had his best half of the season against Illinois, but that was preceded by his worst quarter. If we get a glimmer of that first quarter against Wisconsin, the Badgers will create turnovers and convert for points.
Wisconsin 17, Iowa 13
This is game the Hawkeyes should win. Playing at home, riding a five-game winning streak, and facing a floundering Badger team that has seen its sky-high preseason expectations evaporate over the past few weeks, Iowa has as prime an opportunity to exorcise its Wisconsin demons as it has had in several years.
That being said, I’ve been here before. Iowa was arguably better than Wisconsin in both 2018 and 2019, but still managed to lose both of those games in heartbreaking fashion. The Badger defense has consistently given Iowa fits, and Wisconsin’s offense always seems to rise above its station against the Hawkeyes. The eye test tells me the Hawkeyes should be able to pull this one out, but recent history makes me inclined to say “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Wisconsin 14, Iowa 13
For once the talent gap feels like it tilts in Iowa’s favor. So this just sort of feels like it’s the year Iowa breaks the curse. It’s definitely going to happen because a victory over the Badgers at this moment in time is largely inconsequential in the scheme of things. Normally Wisconsin’s game is to drag you into a hole and beat you with a stick. This year the stick ain’t big enough.
Iowa 20, Wisconsin 13
Well I don’t like this at all. I feel all too confident about Iowa’s ability to finally take one from the Badgers. If there’s anything we’ve learned about the Hawks the past two years is they’ve developed a rare ability to make every game matter, irrespective of what it actually means in the broader landscape. The fact Iowa has been able to avoid a COVID outbreak once the games have got going speaks to that dedication.
Ultimately, I think that sets Iowa just above the Badgers tomorrow. Whether it’s an extra turnover, a goal line stand, an unexpected block...who knows what it is. But I’m feeling optimistic.
Iowa 16, Wisconsin 14
I’ve flipped back and forth on this game all week. This isn’t the same explosive offense that Wisconsin has sported over the past 4-8 years. While they have a fantastic offensive line, they do not have the same type of NFL offensive skill players. On defense, it is very much a typical Wisconsin team , and one that historically has dominated Iowa’s offense. Their linebackers are terrifying.
To this point the Iowa offense has scored at a much higher rate, but can it do that against a top-level defense? I have confidence that Iowa will not abandon the run like they did against Northwestern, but will it be enough? I say yes.
Iowa 23, Wisconsin 18
Everything points to this being the year we get the monkey-Badger off our back. Wisconsin came out of the gate smoking and then got cooled off by The Covid. Bucky has not had the season he would like and he has something to prove this Saturday. The Hawks typically have trouble with Wisconsin’s defense. Spencer Petras took a step forward against Illinois. Wisconsin is not Illinois. I’d feel better if we had 70,000 fans in Kinnick for senior day. Our 5 game winning streak was nice while it lasted. The Hawks come up short in a physical game. Whoever wins the turnover battle takes this one. I unfortunately think it’s going to be the Badgers. Bucky should also have a JHF sticker on their helmet. Hayden’s guy Barry saved that entire program. You’re welcome, Badgers.
Wisconsin 23, Iowa 17
This is certainly not a normal Wisconsin team, in what is not a normal year, but this game still makes me extremely nervous. Which Spencer Petras will we get? If it’s the one from the second half, this could be a big ole win. Anything but, who knows, despite how much I love this defense and the run game.
I’m going to just go ahead and say that Iowa loses this one. Things have been going a bit too well for this squad. I think the other shoe is about to drop.
Wisconsin 24, Iowa 17
So there you have it - another excrutiatingly tight, weird, wild game with the Badgers. What’s your prediction for Saturday?