# 9 Iowa Hawkeyes Wisconsin Badgers Full Game Preview


To be the man, you have to beat the man. If the Iowa Hawkeyes hope to win the Big Ten West, they have to go through the program that usually killed their dreams of winning the division. The Wisconsin Badgers have been the Big Ten West class since the division’s birth, appearing in four Big Ten Championships in the past seven years. The Badgers’ dominance has also extended to the Heartland Trophy battle, with Wisconsin winning seven of the last nine clashes. While the Hawkeyes managed to clinch a victory last season, Iowa enters tomorrow’s game looking to win back-to-back games against Wisconsin for the first time since 2008-09.

The 2021 Heartland Trophy promises to deliver an offensive lineman-sized portion of the one ingredient the series still has in clusters: physicality. This match, which features two top 20-ranked teams nationally in scoring and total defense, will be quite the hard-hitting defensive slugfest that Big Ten fans relish and casual fans dread. Iowa may have played uninspired football in their last game against Purdue, but there’s no reason to expect the Hawkeyes to replicate that performance given the stakes at stake and the desire to the team to turn the page on a deflated defeat. As fierce as this game promises to be, Iowa might end up counting its blessings for having had a goodbye last week to rest.

Here are some key factors to watch out for in this week’s game:

1. Can Iowa succeed in blocking the badgers?

The struggles of the Iowa offensive line have been well documented this year, but few teams are better equipped to expose these flaws than the Badgers. Iowa has often withered against Wisconsin’s top seven in recent years; the Hawkeye area blocking system, which instructs linemen to block a particular area of ​​the field as opposed to a particular man, regularly suffers from missed missions and poor communication against the disciplined attack 3-4 of the Wisconsin who excel at overloading particular areas of the field to confuse Hawkeye linemen and create pressure. Iowa has seen much better offensive lines as the 2021 unit fail to consistently maintain their blocks against the Badgers, and there are plenty of reasons to expect trouble in this department again this year.

Wisconsin’s top seven have been phenomenal all season, especially against the race. Badgers boast of best ground defense in the country, limiting opponents to at least yards per carry (1.87) and per game (53.29 in the sport. This feat, impressive in itself, is all the more spectacular since Wisconsin has played two of the top five rush attacks in the country in the army (2sd) and Michigan (5e). Iowa, which statistically has one of the Big Ten’s worst rushing attacks despite an All-Conference setback, will likely struggle to find consistency on the pitch against an average team 6.57 tackles for loss each game, the third largest in the conference.

The Hawkeyes are unlikely to find any reprieve in pass protection. Badgers rank 4e in the Big Ten in bags per match with 2.57 and are particularly adept at lobbying from the outside with linebackers Leo Chenal and Nick Herbig. Wisconsin’s ability to rush will pose a serious challenge to Iowa tackles who have struggled to protect passes all year while making it difficult for Iowa to execute contraband throws designed to keep QB Spencer Petras out of a collapsing pocket. Iowa may find themselves choosing between using players like Tyler Goodson and Sam LaPorta to help with pass protection (which would deprive Petras of two proven safety covers) or expose themselves to death bags.

The Iowa offensive line has not shown anything on the film to indicate that it is ready to handle the Badgers up front, it is possible that the young players on Front Five have reached a milestone during the week leave. Otherwise, the Hawkeye offense could last a long day.

2. Can Iowa attack the Badgers using their vertical passing game?

Wisconsin’s pass defense has been excellent this season, holding opponents to the tenth less aerial works in the country per game (169.7). However, secondary Badger has shown a vulnerability in the vertical passing game, something Penn State

and Michigan

managed to exploit and which Iowa took advantage of on several occasions during last year’s game.

Wisconsin are incredibly strong against short passing play and gave up on 4e lowest number of passes over 10 yards played in college football this season. However, badgers defensive metrics worsen opponents’ throw further, as Wisconsin also gave up four passes over 40 yards during the year. If Wisconsin safeties creep into the box to help stop the run, Iowa must be prepared to target Badger corners and attack Jim Leonhard’s defense in depth.

Iowa may not be able to count on Ihmir Smith-Marsette to burn Wisconsin again this year, but the team have other options they can rely on if they choose to stretch the field. Keagan Johnson has been dynamic this season, averaging 31.2 yards per catch, more yards than any Hawkeye player with multiple receptions in any given season on average over the past 35 years. Johnson made his mark as a deep threat against Colorado State and made some big plays after the capture against Penn State and Purdue, and must become a bigger part of Iowa’s offensive game plan in this game. His freshman Arland Bruce IV could also be a threat to burn the Badgers down deep, as could Tyrone Tracy Jr., a player who has yet to break through this season but was instrumental on a deep shot. against Wisconsin in 2019.

If Iowa struggles to move the ball to the ground, the Hawkeyes must adapt and look for other ways to attack the Badgers. Allowing Petras to shoot down could provide Iowa with the spark they need to reignite their struggling attack against one of the best defenses in the country.

3. Can Iowa force Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz to make mistakes?

Wisconsin will enter Saturday’s game with an offensive game plan that Nile Kinnick and Alan Ameche would recognize: run, run, run. The Badgers threw just eight passes against Purdue while running the ball over fifty times in an attempt to build on his strength on the ground and keep the ball out of the hands of flip-prone quarterback Graham Mertz. The Badgers have efficient ground play led by running backs Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen that will be a real test for a Hawkeye defense that has excelled against the run this year (Iowa is allowing the sixth less yards per carry and the seventh less yards per game in the nation), but faced few elite hasty attacks and took advantage of conference play four leaders in passing attempts per game.

The Iowa defense will look to force Wisconsin to kick off situations by denying them third and short chances and focusing heavily on the flight threat. Expect the Hawkeyes to ditch the 4-2-5 defense in favor of their traditional 4-3 and feature plenty of line-ups with three linebackers in addition to Dane Belton in safety. The Iowa linebackers have stood out against the run this year and the defensive line has done a great job clogging the running lanes all season. Another strong performance in this area could force Wisconsin to choose between a triple and a repeated strikeout or a ball in the air.

If Mertz falls back to pass, the Hawkeye defense could have a blast. While the Badgers have the seventh worst revenue margin per game in college football, Iowa has the third best. Hawk eyes lead the nation in interceptions with sixteen to seven games and should be able to feast on a quarterback who has a touchdown: interception ratio of 2: 7 and has been prone to fumbling football throughout his career. Secondary Hawkeye will need to keep the momentum going without interception leader Riley Moss, and Matt Hankins and Terry Roberts will need to bounce back after battling Purdue. But if Iowa can force Wisconsin into a position where they need Graham Mertz to win the game for them, the Hawkeyes will have a great opportunity to come out on top clearly in the Big Ten West.

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