Preview: Wisconsin @ Iowa

Wisconsin, 20-13.

Crazy? Not so fast. Sure, Wisconsin is 0-3 in the Big Ten, lost to Michigan and got clobbered by Penn State. The team is crashing, the quarterback has been replaced, and the starting left tackle and right guard are injured. It's not as though the defense has been anything to crow about lately, giving up the entire 4th quarter to the Wolverines, the last drive to a true-freshman Buckeye, and the whole game to the Nittany Lions. So, yah, there's plenty of room for skepticism.

Here's the thing: football is about individual match-ups. We all know the transitive property does not rule on the gridiron, and on Saturday we'll see a good example of that.

Why? Look at what these two teams do. Iowa is a running team. That's what they do. Stanzi is ok at quarterback, but not more than that. He's had one game over 200 yards passing, in the loss to Northwestern. More importantly, he's no threat to run the ball. None. That is what Wisconsin has struggled with: dual threat quarterbacks.

When playing a mobile quarterback, they have to leave their secondary out to dry to contain the spread running game. Losing Ike to the NFL and Henry to injury, Langford is the best they have at corner, and while decent, he's not great. Go back and look at the Penn State game. Look at that drive the Buckeyes put together. Look at Michigan's scoring drives (two of three; Threat's QB option run was the third). Spread attacks throwing the ball. Folks, that's not Iowa. Iowa runs a pretty straight-forward attack. They're going to run Shonn Greene at you until he's tired, then they're going to run Jewel Hampton at you.

Yes, they ran through Indiana like a hot knife through butter. As bad as Wisconsin looked last week, the Badgers aren't Indiana (2-4, with a blowout loss to Ball State). Newkirk, Chapman, Shaughnessy, Levy, and Casillas will stop the run.

Now, Wisconsin isn't going to get all crazy against Iowa, either. As much as Chryst would love to run a complex, NFL-style scheme, with a new quarterback under center, he's not going to. Clay and Hill (I'll say it again, it should be Brown and Clay) will carry the load against a solid Iowa front. Sherer will be called on to mix things up to Graham, Beckum, and the receivers, who may, or may not, catch what's thrown their way. But the Badgers will rely on the running game. What does Iowa look like against teams with a solid running game? 0-2 (21-20 vs. #23 Pitt, 16-13 vs. #21 MSU). And those two games are the model for this one: straight up battling in the trenches for rushing lanes.

Iowa lost to Michigan State because of turnovers. Plain and simple. Pittsburgh was a little more complicated, but going 4-17 on 3rd downs won't give you a lot of scoring opportunities (they were 4-16 vs. MSU), and missing a field goal in a 1-point game obviously didn't help. Now, both of these games were "winnable" for Iowa, but ifs, ands, and buts don't win games, points do. Ask Bielema about Michigan and Ohio State. Both were close games, but MSU wasn't really as close as the score indicates; MSU was protecting their lead from the middle of the 3rd quarter.

Now, if Wisconsin gets behind early, by more than a score, it will be interesting to see how they respond. A ten-point deficit early could do some real damage to an already shaky Badger psyche.

What does it all mean? Wisconsin's passing game is actually better than Pitt's, and not much worse than MSU's (Sherer probably isn't as good as Hoyer, but Chryst's schemes are better than MSU's with Graham and Beckum at full strength). Wisconsin's defense is up to defending the Hawkeye running game (though Greene will get his hundred, and Iowa will get on the scoreboard). And the Badger running game, like the Hawkeyes', will get its yards. Although Kinnick hasn't been good to Wisconsin over the years, in this case the opportunity to get away from Camp Randall and play with a chip on their shoulder in a hostile environment, rather than the luke warm reception they would get at home right now, is actually something of a benefit.

The Badgers are better than they looked last week. More importantly, they are playing a much different opponent. As I said, Wisconsin, 20-13.

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