The Iowa Hawkeyes are headed to Camp Randall to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in a pivotal Big Ten West matchup between two teams chasing Minnesota to regain control of the division. While this is not an elimination game, it might as well be with Iowa and Wisconsin both having 2 conference losses already and Minnesota being undefeated. While the Golden Gophers have a tough stretch to end the season, I think that whichever of these 3 can go 2-0 will win the conference, but it does get sticky if they all go 1-0, where I believe that Minnesota would have a big edge.
Both teams are coming into this game off of a bye and I think that that is extremely important for the Badgers in particular. Wisconsin was undefeated and rolling into the top 5 conversation before stumbling at Illinois and then getting rolled by Ohio State next week. This bye week should allow the Badger to reset and refocus on getting back to the Big 10 championship game with the ability to possibly head to a good bowl game.
Iowa Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense
Iowa and Wisconsin both generally play in a slow-paced game with limited scoring and I expect this to be the case here, especially with the bye week for both teams to remain fundamentally sound. If you watched Illinois beat Wisconsin a few weeks ago, you would notice that the Fighting Illini really took advantage of the matchups that they had on the outside and I think that the Hawkeyes should attempt to create big plays as well. The issue is that Nate Stanley has struggled mightily against good defenses this season and Wisconsin has been really good at getting pressure.
While Stanley has struggled to throw downfield against elite defenses, Smith-Marsette has been impressive when it comes to getting space downfield and winning long routes. If Smith-Marsette can get loose, I expect Iowa to score points, but I think this can only be done if Wisconsin really respects the running game. While it would seem easy to do this since Illinois was able to connect a few times, Illinois actually has an elite pass-blocking grade and Iowa has struggled, particularly against Michigan and Penn State.
Iowa will rely on Mehki Sargent to make the Wisconsin defense more susceptible to the deep shots by running well. Wisconsin has historically been a great run defense team and I expect that to be the case in this game. The Badgers got crushed by Ohio State on the ground last week, but I don’t think we can expect the Hawkeyes to recreate that.
Wisconsin Offense vs. Iowa Defense
The Badgers are a run-heavy football team that will challenge Iowa’s ability to stop them and I would be relatively surprised to see Iowa give up a huge game to Jonathan Taylor. Last season, Taylor only averaged 4.5 YPC in this matchup, but it allowed for 210 passing yards and three touchdowns and Jack Coan is playing better than Alex Hornibrook was a season ago.
I expect to see a very similar outcome here unless Iowa thinks that they must respect Coan. I would think that they force Coan to beat them and this will not end particularly well for Iowa. While Coan cannot kill them, I believe that he should be able to do enough to score 20-30 points here.
As a -8.5 point favorite, it will be scary taking the Badgers here, but that is what I have to do. I expect Iowa to be suffocated on the offensive side of the ball and that will eventually turn into good field position and points for the Badgers. This game sets up like a 24-10 game in favor of Wisconsin, good for the Badgers and the under. Bet the Badgers and the under at *PayPerHead247.com* our favorite pay per head bookie site.
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