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College Football: Iowa-Wisconsin Preview

Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan

No. 20 Iowa at No. 8 Wisconsin  2:30 PM CT   ABC

Iowa (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) shocked not only the nation last week, but its entire fan base, as it demolished then-sixth ranked Ohio State 55-24 at Kinnick Stadium. After scoring the most points against a Big Ten opponent since 2008 and knocking off the Buckeyes for the first time in 13 years, the high-flying Hawkeyes will face their third Top 10 opponent of the season on Saturday against unbeaten Wisconsin (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten).

The eighth-ranked Badgers appear to be the conference’s final hope for the College Football Playoff, meaning Iowa could turn the Big Ten completely upside down for a second straight week if they pull off the upset in Madison. Wisconsin has controlled the Heartland Trophy in recent years by winning four of the past five meetings in this series, but the Hawkeyes have only lost by an average of 7.5 points.

The Hawkeye defense, particularly cornerback Josh Jackson, was sensational as it caused four J.T. Barrett interceptions. On the other hand, it was a Nate Stanley-led offense that put on a clinic by scoring the most points ever on an Urban Meyer coached team.

(Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Saturday could be a different story as the Hawkeyes face an always stingy Badger defense surrendering only 13.3 points per game and 87.8 rushing yards per game.

Running back Akrum Wadley is going to have his hands full against a defensive line consisting of senior defensive end Alec James, who has 12.5 tackles for loss. Pounding the football on the ground and not opening up the offense is something that Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz cannot afford to do.

While it’s hard to imagine Stanley passing for 226 yards and five touchdowns for a second straight week, he proved last week that he can be an accurate passer and utilize his tight ends to their fullest potential. T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant combined for 125 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, the Hawkeye defense knows exactly what it’s up against. No matter how predictable Wisconsin’s offense may be, containing 1,000-yard rusher Jonathan Taylor behind that massive offensive line will be no easy task. That will be a cause of concern for a Parker Hesse-led Iowa line that has given up 147.3 rushing yards per game.

If Kirk Ferentz’s squad has any chance of knocking off their second Top 10 team in two weeks, the defense has to put pressure on sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook who has thrown at least one interception in his last six starts this season. Causing Hornibrook problems in the pocket and winning the turnover battle may still not be enough though, especially if the Hawkeye offense can’t capitalize off turnovers.

Expect a typical low-scoring affair between these two Big Ten foes that comes down to which team wins the battle up front.

Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Iowa 20

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