Know Your Foe: Wisconsin

Hawkeye Insider's Josh Harvey caught up with Badger Nation publisher Ben Worgull this week to get the inside scoop on Wisconsin.

What impressed me with Wisconin's win over Ohio State was they had chances to crumble and didn't. Ohio State came punching back and Wisconsin took it. Is that somewhat of the consensus around Madison this week??

Ben Worgull - The consensus was the start and the finish for the Badgers. The start was surprising because David Gilreath finally returned a kickoff for a touchdown after four seasons (and one after he was hauled off the field on a stretcher a month earlier) and Wisconsin built a 21-0 lead by pounding the ball down the Buckeyes' throats.

The finish was impressive because most people, me included, thought the Buckeyes were going to take control when they closed it to 21-18. That's when the Badgers went on a 10-play, 73-yard drive to efficiently take control for good. It's something we knew the Badgers could do, but something we hadn't seen with great consistency, especially against a ranked opponent of OSU's caliber. ?

After a big win against Ohio State at home, are there worries that Wisconsin will come out somewhat flat against Iowa??

BW - I think the worries are more from the fan's perspective. Obviously after such an emotional win that required plenty of preparation and dedication, it would be natural to conjure up the kind of energy again for what will need to be a 60 minute game. Being around the players this week, the seniors, and even a few freshmen, have said the right things. Senior Scott Tolzien mentioned that the Badgers have used practice as a mental escape, as students have been understandably congratulating them all week.

It's hard to imagine UW will come out with the same edge it did last week, but this is a rivalry game that the Badgers have circled on their calendar since summer workouts. ?

Iowa forced Scott Tolzien into three interceptions last year. This season, he only has three all year. Talk about the progression he has made going into his senior year.?

BW - It's amazing what a year of experience will do for a quarterback and his confidence. Tolzien has his same receivers back, his same running back and his same offensive line. Instead of developing chemistry, the group has spent the entire year improving it, which can be seen in the results. Wisconsin went 18 quarters without a turnover, the longest in school history since at least the 1959 season.

In 20 games under Tolzien's direction, UW is averaging 33.4 points and 422.9 yards of total offense. Wisconsin has also converted 124 of its 254 third-downs (48.8 percent) in those games. In the red zone, UW is 85 of 92 (92.4 percent), including 71 touchdowns (77.2 percent). ?

Chances of rain in the forecast. About 70% at this point. Who does this favor in your opinion??

BW - I think it has to favor Wisconsin and the Badgers running game. One would think rain would slow down the passing game, which the Hawkeyes have relied heavily on this season to make the offense tick. Ricky Stanzi is putting up fantastic numbers this season but could only convert 4-for-13 on third-downs against Arizona (the best defense the Hawks have faced). UW's secondary has surprised a lot of people, so I wouldn't put it past them to capitalize on a couple mistakes.

The Badgers' top three running backs (John Clay, James White and Montee Ball) have combined for 262 carries and fumbled the ball just once. That will need to continue to have a chance. ?

Everyone knows about Clay, but talk about the emergence of James White at running back.?

BW - James White learned in the second week the value of ball security and running through the goal line, as he lost a fumble out of the back of the end zone. His last four games have made that play a memory.

White has rushed for 436 of his 560 yards this season and all nine of his TDs over the last four games. White's 560 yards are third-best among freshman running backs in the country.

White is key to the offense for two reasons. One, he brings an extra burst, averaging 7.0 yards per carry, sixth-best in the country among running backs with at least 70 carries. Second, he keeps Clay healthy for the fourth quarter. Clay and 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.

What's your unbiased prediction?

BW - This is a coin flip for me. I was thoroughly impressed with how Wisconsin used the electric home crowd environment to its advantage and punched Ohio State in the teeth. Can they play perfect for two weeks in a row? That's what needs to be done, and it likely will have to be done through the air. I have my doubts, but I think Iowa will use its raucous home crowd to its advantage and knock off UW.


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