THE BREAKDOWN: Wisconsin

The favored Iowa Hawkeyes play host to rival Wisconsin this weekend at Kinnick Stadium. Hawkeye Insider publisher Rob Howe analyzes the contest in The Breakdown.

IOWA CITY, Ia. - The competition is fierce between Iowa and Wisconsin, on the field and off of it. They often recruit the same prep players.

While this rivaly his serious business, the two coaching staffs find time for levity. The Hawkeyes joke. Badger Coach Bret Bielema, an Iowa alum, shows a sense of humor.

"Every time (a recruit) goes to visit there, the first thing, I can write it down to a tee, they're going to come back and say, ‘Coach, can we see your tattoo?'" Bielema said. "Every Iowa coach says that to him so I know their routine, and it's nothing surprising."

Bielema sports Tigerhawk ink on his leg.

One of the main reasons that the schools recruit the same players is because their systems and desired personnel is similar.

"It's probably not so much location, why we recruit (against each other)," Bielema said. "We run similar schemes. Very few teams run the tight end the way that we have in the past. So when you're recruiting tight ends, no one, very few people block offensive football like we do.

"We had a couple of [general managers] in during the course of the week last week, GMs of NFL teams. And they basically [say] ‘It's so relieving to watch, come in and watch film and watch you run the football like they want to run it the next level.' We recruit against Iowa here in our state, and their state, in Illinois, Minneapolis, but also we end up recruiting against them in south Florida, in Texas, in St. Louis, in Ohio, in Pittsburgh, because of the same philosophies, offense and defense, and some of the other stuff I probably shouldn't get into."

Some Hawkeye fans like to good-naturedly pick on Bielema. Some genuinely think he's a traitor. Either way, he's taking the necessary steps to prepare a team to play in a stadium in which he used to hear cheers.

"I graduated from Iowa," Bielema said. "They treat me very badly I know when I go down there. So it's a hostile environment. They're right on top of you.

"I think our kids will embrace the challenge that they have, but we got to have crowd noise in there during the course of the week this week when we're practicing. We have to explain to them and make them understand how that noise has got to make them play harder, play longer, play faster."

TELEVISION: ABC (HD) will televise the contest to a regional audience. Fans not in the ABC regional footprint can view the game on ESPN (HD). Sean McDonough, Matt Millen and Heather Cox will call the action. To find out where the game will be shown in your area, check out the coverage map.

RECORDS, RANKINGS: Iowa (5-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) is ranked 12th in the coaches poll and 13th by the Associated Press. Wisconsin (6-1, 1-1) is ranked 10th in the AP and 11th in the coaches' poll. The Hawkeyes are 15th in the initial BCS rankings, while Wisconsin is 13th.

HISTORY: Iowa holds a 42-41-2 advantage. Iowa has won the last two meetings, six of the last eight and 23 of the last 31. Iowa holds a 4-2 advantage since the Heartland Trophy was introduced prior to the 2004 meeting. Iowa is 24-15-1 against Wisconsin at Iowa City, including a 38-16 victory in 2008 when the teams last met in Kinnick Stadium.

THE LINE: It sat at Iowa minus 5.5 on Wednesday night after opening at 6.5 on Sunday. The public likes Wisconsin. Why wouldn't it after the Badgers knocked off No. 1-ranked Ohio State on national TV last Saturday?

The Vegas guys are smart. The goal is to get even action on both teams, which is nearly impossible. But in the end, if usually ends up close enough for the house.

I have a feeling that the smart money is waiting on the number to fall a bit more. If not, the wise guys will probably jump on the 5.5. I would anticipate this number moving in the other direction by week's end.

A couple of interesting trends: Hawkeyes are 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games as a home favorite of 3.5-10.0 and are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 conference games. Badgers are 3-10 ATS in their last 13 road games vs. a team with a winning home record and are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games as an underdog of 3.5-10.0.

KEY MATCH-UPS:

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn vs. Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi - The classic immovable object in Carimi against the unstoppable force in Clayborn. Both of these guys will be playing on Sundays next year and the pro scouts will have an eye on this one.

Opponents are paying special attention to Clayborn this season, double teaming him or chipping with a back on a large percentage of the plays. It will be interesting if the Badgers take a similar approach. I'm thinking they go straight up. And that should be fun.

Iowa DT Karl Klug vs. Wisconsin LG John Moffitt - Another great matchup in the trenches, it will be Klug's technique against Moffitt's bulk. The Badger senior (323) outweighs the Hawkeye senior by more than 50 pounds.

Michigan succeeded in running the ball right at Klug last week with its large line. Klug adjusted as he has in the past when teams try to approach.

I would expect to see the Badgers test Klug and Clayborn behind Carimi and Moffitt.

Iowa Leo Tyler Nielsen vs. Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks - First-year starter Nielsen will be challenged by Kendricks, one of the nation's top tight ends. We'll find out just how much Nielsen learned from A.J. Edds, who thrived in these clashes.

Nielsen will be needed in run support, but he also has to be aware of Kendricks' big play ability. The Iowa linebacker's reads are always key, but it will be amped up this week.

Wisconsin CB Niles Brinkley vs. Iowa WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos - DJK is on fire. Brinkley knows how to extinguish flames.

Johnson-Koulianos is coming off a three-touchdown performance at Michigan, where he also broke Iowa's all-time career receiving yardage mark. Brinkley played a large role in helping to shut down Ohio State's talented receivers a week ago.

Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt vs. Iowa RT Markus Zusevics - Zuess has held up nicely in his first year as a starter, but this will be a raised level of talent and intensity with Watt.

Zusevics won't be the only Hawkeye lineman to see Watt across from him. The Badgers like to move around their talented junior and find mismatches. But if Zusevics struggles, there might not be a need to move Watt around.

-

INJURIES:

Wisconsin - Mike Taylor (ankle, probable); Lance Kendricks (knee, probable); Nick Toon (knee, probable).

Iowa - Jeff Tarpinian (neck, doubtful); Brett Morse (leg, probable).

THE SKINNY - WISCONSIN:

-John Clay and James White are one of just two running back duos in the country to each average at least 80.0 yards per game. Their 1,356 combined rushing yards is the best in the country among RB tandems.

-Watt recorded three tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks, vs. Ohio State. He leads the Badgers, ranks second in the Big Ten and tied for 11th in the country with 11.5 tackles for loss on the year. Watt is also tied for the team lead with six pass breakups, tied for the most by a defensive lineman in the nation.

-Wisconsin leads the country in fewest penalties per game, averaging just 3.29 penalties per game. The Badgers' 31.4 penalty yards per game are fourth-fewest in the country.

-UW is 33-4 under Bielema when it scores first, including wins in 12 of the last 13 games in which it has put the first points on the board.

-UW has turned the ball over just five times (three interceptions and two fumbles) this season, tied for second-fewest in the country. The Badgers' top three running backs (John Clay, James White and Montee Ball) have combined for 262 carries and fumbled the ball just once.

-Wisconsin ranks ninth in the country and leads the Big Ten in third-down conversions, converting 39-of-75 (52.0 percent) of its third downs.

-Wisconsin's starting offensive line averages 6-5 1/2, 320 pounds and the members of the front five have combined to start 115 games in their careers. Three of the five are on major award watch lists.

-The Badgers have given up just five sacks in 155 pass attempts through seven games. That is tied for the 11th-fewest sacks allowed in the country among teams that have played seven games.

-Wisconsin's opponents have scored just three rushing touchdowns this season. That is tied for fifth-best in the country.

-In the last two seasons (20 games), Wisconsin has allowed just two running backs to gain 100 yards. Fresno State's Ryan Matthews, who led the country in rushing in 2009, gained 107 yards on Sept. 12, 2009 and Arizona State's Deandre Lewis had 122 yards in week three.

-The Badgers are allowing opponents to convert just 33.7 percent (32-of-95) third downs this season, 17th in the country.

THE SKINNY - IOWA:

-Iowa has won 20 of its last 23 games and 22 of 26, dating back to the middle of the 2008 season.

-Iowa has won 48 of its last 57 games (.842) in Kinnick Stadium, dating back to the 2002 season, including a perfect 4-0 mark this season.

-Iowa ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense (13.2) and seventh in rushing defense (83.8). The two rushing touchdowns by Michigan were the first allowed by Iowa this season. The Iowa defense was the last unit in the nation to allow a rushing touchdown this season.

-The Iowa roster includes three players from the state of Wisconsin. They are true freshman DL Mike Hardy from Appleton, and true freshman DB Brian Kroll and redshirt freshman OL Charlie Knipper, both from Whitefish Bay. The Badgers have one Iowan on their roster, sophomore TE Zach Davison (Waukee).

-With 23 wins as Iowa's starting quarterback, senior Ricky Stanzi ranks eighth among FBS signal callers in victories. Stanzi trails the following: Andy Dalton, TCU (36), Kellen Moore, Boise State (32), Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (28), Terrell Pryor, Ohio State (25), Colin Kaerpernick, Nevada (25), Case Keenum, Houston (24), and Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech (24).

-Iowa has won 10 straight games over the last four seasons with a trophy on the line. The current streak began with a win over Minnesota in 2007 for possession of Floyd of Rosedale. Iowa also won the battle for Floyd in both 2008 and 2009 and the Cy-Hawk (Iowa State) the last three years. Iowa has won the Heartland Trophy (Wisconsin) the last two seasons. The streak includes wins in the 2009 Outback and 2010 FedEx Orange bowls.

-Iowa scored 21 points following five Michigan turnovers, which includes a blocked field goal. For the season, Iowa has scored 69 points following 15 opponent turnovers, which includes 14 points following two blocked kicks. Iowa has five turnovers (three fumbles, two interceptions) in six games, allowing only seven points following those turnovers. Iowa has recorded at least one takeaway in 49 of its last 54 games, dating back to the 2006 campaign.

THE PREDICTION: Unlike last week at Michigan where it was a battle of contrasting systems, Iowa faces a team in Wisconsin that mirrors what the Hawkeyes like to do in many areas. So, this one will come down to a battle of wills where execution and concentration are key.

In terms of pressure, I think more of it falls on Wisconsin. If the Badgers lose a second conference game, they're likely out of the chase for championship.

That doesn't mean the game is any less important for the Hawkeyes. If they want to control their own destiny, this week is a needed win against a fellow contender at home.

A lot of people are focusing on Iowa's heralded defensive line versus the Badgers massive and talented offensive front. It should be a great matchup and key to victory for whichever team can come out ahead in that battle.

There are other areas on which to pay attention, however. Special teams play could very well play a big role.

Mike Meyer made a big kick at Michigan last weekend and the true freshman might be faced with a similar opportunity this weekend. This coupled be the first game of the season where Hawkeye punter Ryan Donahue becomes a major player in the outcome.

Wisconsin boasts a three-year starter at kicker in Philip Welch, a Groza Award watch list member. Badgers Punter Brad Nortman also is in his third year as a starter and averaging 43.0 yards a punt this season.

Iowa is ranked as one of the best defenses in the country, but the unit has experienced some tackling issues at times this season. That will not do against a Wisconsin team that runs the ball so effectively.

Iowa's offensive line will be awarded an opportunity to show how much it's grown with three new starters. The Badgers defense will be the most physical it's faced. The Hawkeyes managed just 65 yards on 39 carries last year at Camp Randall.

As you can see throughout this week's breakdown, this game has potential to turn in a lot of areas. Reasonable people shouldn't be shocked no matter who wins.

So, we play the percentages in this prognostication. Iowa plays well at home. Wisconsin has been susceptible on the road. The Badgers need to get emotions sky high for a second week in a row, a tough proposition.

I think Iowa is the better team.

IOWA 24, Wisconsin 16

STATISTICS:

Wisconsin

Iowa


Hawkeye Insider Top Stories