It’s been nearly two weeks since the Iowa Hawkeyes last took the field. When they did, it was for their first loss of the season in embarrassing fashion as the Purdue Boilermakers spoiled Homecoming to the tune of a 24-7 win over the Hawkeyes.
Now, fresh off a bye, Iowa heads to Madison for a showdown with the Wisconsin Badgers. Much is at stake in this one. There is, of course, the bull - the Heartland Trophy. But there’s also the pole position in the Big Ten West. The winner of this one will hold the tiebreaker over the other should the two teams end the year tied in the final standings. And those standings are tight right now.
As in years past, this one is expected to be tight. Both teams feature stout defenses while each has a struggling offense predicated on running the ball. Vegas is on the Badgers as the DraftKings Sportsbook has this one Wisconsin -3.5. Our staff is also on Wisconsin, but think Iowa can cover the spread. But what about Hawkeye fans at large?
Well, we asked. And a majority of you all are picking Iowa to win this one. In fact, more than a majority. In total, nearly two-thirds of Hawkeye fans polled have Iowa pulling out the win on the road Saturday.
Interestingly, that’s a bigger majority of Iowa fans having faith in their team than Badger fans have in their own. Only 54% of Wisconsin fans polled by our brethren at Bucky’s 5th Quarter are taking the Badgers to win straight up.
That’s like due in part to 64% of Wisconsin fans picking Iowa to win the turnover battle. As has often been the case in this series, the team that protects the ball and owns time of possession is likely to emerge victorious.
Perhaps even more interesting than the results of this week’s predictions is that a higher percentage of Iowa fans are picking the Hawkeyes to win the Big Ten West. While 63% of fans have Iowa over Wisconsin this weekend, 64% are taking them over the Badgers for the whole season and calling Iowa to return to Indianapolis.
While that’s still a high number, it’s down quite substantially from a few weeks ago. Heading into Iowa’s matchup with Penn State, we asked a similar question and a staggering 97% of respondents picked Iowa to win the West. We didn’t follow up after that win, but it’s a safe bet the number didn’t decrease after climbing to #2 in the nation.
We’ll continue to track that figure as the season goes on. Should Iowa win this weekend, the percentage is sure to jump as they’ll hold a tie-breaker over Wisconsin with Minnesota the only real threat left to take them out of the driver’s seat. A loss would significantlt hurt their chances.
That, however, is going to be dictated by how the Hawkeyes perform in their final five games. While we noted 63% of Hawkeye fans think Iowa will win this weekend, nearly 40% of you are calling for Iowa to win the rest of their games this season.
That would make for an incredible finish and a heck of a year for Iowa with the Hawkeyes finishing 11-1. It would also guarantee Iowa is back in Indy as 64% of you are predicting.
Even if Iowa loses one more game this season, their shot at winning the West is not dead. As noted, wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota would give Iowa breathing room to drop one against an Illinois, Northwestern or Nebraska down the stretch. Coincidentally, if you add up the percentage of fans calling for Iowa to finish with one or zero more losses, you find yourself at the same 64% of people picking Iowa to win the division.
Here’s hoping that subset of the fanbase is on to something.