This is Wisconsin’s first test of the season. If the Badgers want to prove that they do belong in the playoff, they need to be impressive against a streaking Iowa Hawkeyes team. The Badgers are still holding onto a 9-0 record, and are coming off of an impressive win against Indiana. The Hawkeyes, however, come into Madison off of a blowout win against No. 6 Ohio State, and have jumped into the CFB rankings. Here is what to watch for as the Badgers look to claim the Heartland Trophy.
Badgers will need to rely on both Taylor’s. Quintez Cephus and Jazz Peavy both will sit out on Saturday, leaving Alex Hornibrook without much to work with under center. He will have tight end Troy Fumagalli, but Hornibrook can’t rely on him for the whole game. In the passing game he will need to look towards sophomore wide receiver AJ Taylor. Taylor is coming off his best ever collegiate game with 63 all-purpose yards. In the running game it is no surprise that the Badgers will rely on Jonathan Taylor to get the job done. Taylor has earned the honor of Big Ten Freshman of the week for a Wisconsin record five times. The Badgers will need both Taylor’s to perform well for the offense to thrive against a hungry Iowa defense.
The road team is 10-6 in the last 16 games against Iowa. The Badgers and Iowa have competed in relatively close games since 2000. Since then, the average margin of victory is 9.2 points. A stat even more compelling then that? The road team has won more than the home team in all those matchups. The Badgers have won 8 of the last 15 games over the Hawkeyes, and will look to win again on Saturday. Wisconsin needs to stand tall at home with the playoff on the line.
The Badgers defensive line cannot let Nate Stanley get comfortable. Ohio State’s defensive line was not able to get consistent pressure on Iowa quarterback, Nate Stanley. Without pressure on Stanley, Iowa was able to pick the Buckeyes apart in a lopsided win last weekend. Defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk is listed as questionable, and Garrett Rand could also miss the game Saturday as he was seen with a boot and crutches earlier this week. It will be important for Olive Sagapolu and Connor Sheehy to be in Stanley’s face for the entirety of the game. With D’Cota Dixon listed as questionable, the Badgers secondary will also need to be on their A game, but success starts upfront.
The Badgers need to be at their best the next two weeks. Wisconsin will be tested each of the next two weeks against two solid Big Ten teams. Iowa is currently ranked at No. 20, and next week the Michigan Wolverines will be coming to the Camp. I still don’t think we have seen the Badgers play to the best of their ability this season, and there’s no better time for them to show what they can do than the next two weeks. They can’t afford to start slow and make unnecessary mistakes against two teams that will easily take advantage. In order for Wisconsin to remain undefeated, they need to play to the very best of their ability.