The Big 10 West is getting interesting, to say the least. This weekend we will have before us a series of matchups that will play a big role in determining who heads to Indianapolis for the chance to compete for the Big 10 championship.
One of those matches is, of course the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers paying a visit to historic Kinnick Stadium to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Any number of things could happen during this game. While the Hawkeyes rolled over the Fighting Illini last week, that is nothing compared to the beating Wisconsin. Iowa is 7-3 on the season and Wisconsin is 8-2. The Badgers have shown more consistently lately and has confidence on both sides of the ball. Iowa has been shaky and the offense seems to lose its cool towards the midnight hour of gameplay. That being said, this game should still be great to watch.
Head coach of the Hawkeyes, Kirk Ferentz is well aware of the clear and present danger that will be heading into Iowa City this weekend. Ferentz commented simply that “We’re going to have to play well at all 11 positions.” Iowa will have to be on guard 100% of the game and not lose focus towards the end. It is not uncommon for the Hawkeyes to put up a two touchdown lead and blow it in the second half.
The defensive situation at Iowa has shown progress, especially against Illinois. But Wisconsin will be the toughest offense Iowa has faced all season, and that has to be cause for concern. Not to mention going up against the Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordan who, once upon a time, was a verbal commit to Iowa.
The Hawkeye defense will have their work cut out for them trying to stop Gordan, who rushed for an FBS record 408 yards on 25 carries against Nebraska last Saturday. Oh, and did I mention he did that in just three quarters over the Cornhuskers? He also leads the nation in rushing yards (1,409) and touchdowns (25). Saying the Hawkeyes have their work cut out for them might be an understatement.
Iowa’s offense has shown progress in their ability to control the ball and running back Mark Weisman put up 100 yards for the first time in 2014. Quarterback Jake Rudock is an offensive weapon for the Hawkeyes, but he loses focus towards the end of the game. The Hawkeyes need to put points up on the board early and often if they want a chance of surviving the Badgers.
Ferentz had high praises for Wisconsin.
“They play with great enthusiasm and toughness. They’re where they should be all the time.”
Coach Ferentz couldn’t be more right. Wisconsin has a defense that is second in yards per passing attempt and third in yards per carry. It will be a tough defense for Iowa to break past.
The Badgers’ offense is a formidable opponent, who possess other weapons besides Gordon. They have what is referred to as “the Chevy Bad Boys” aka an unstoppable crew of linebackers. This group includes Vince Biegal, Derek Landisch, Marcus Trotter, and Joe Schobert. Together, they combine for 38 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks.
Iowa is not going to experience the proverbial cake walk they did against Illinois. They have had a rough time in the B1G, and that will not change against Wisconsin. They will need balance on both sides of the ball and hold their lines steady to keep Wisconsin at bay.
Wisconsin currently has the inside track to the B1G West, but if Iowa can defeat the Badgers and Nebraska defeats Minnesota, than they could very well be the team heading to the B1G championship. Things are, as always, interesting in the B1G up until the last game, and this week will be no exception.
*Section Photo and Featured Photo (above) credit to Matthew Hoist, Getty Images.