Ben Worgull: Wisconsin's performance in the Ohio State game was quite bizarre. The Badgers entered that game boasting the nation's number three rushing attack (349.8 yards per game) and the 90th passing offense in the country. And with the Badgers missing Jacob Pedersen (knee), Kenzel Doe (hamstring) and Jordan Fredrick (head) out, Wisconsin managed to throw, somehow, for 295 yards.
What made the passing game so successful was an insane performance by senior Jared Abbrederis catching 10 passes for a career-high 207 yards. Most of the yards came against junior cornerback Brandon Roby - a projected high draft pick in 2014 - that included a 36-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
The Badgers managed to complete 20 passes to five different receivers, and that performance gave quarterback Joel Stave. Throughout his first four starts, Stave did not make the easy throws and threw the bad interception. The performance against Ohio State seemed to give Stave a little jump start, much like what the matchup with the Buckeyes did with Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock.
What are the main differences, if any, between Wisconsin now versus when Bret Bielema ran the show?
BW: There's obviously the cosmetic difference with the Badgers' defense moving to a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme, as well as little tweaks offensively. Ask anybody in and around the program that question, however, and it's evident that Bielema's antics, strive to grab the spotlight and failure in big situations were growing tiresome.
Change has been a good thing this season. Gary Andersen is more personable and media friendly than the former head coach and has assembled a staff that appears to be superior in x's and o's in comparison. Most importantly, Andersen puts the attention on the players, instead of himself, and has been embraced by the players for his ability to motivate, console and handle adverse situations, which can't necessarily be said about the former head coach.
All those things have people excited about Wisconsin building something better in the future, especially with the players already committed to the program and the players the Badgers are still targeting.
3. Do you get the sense that the Badgers are feeling the rivalry this week? Some of these guys have never played Iowa.
BW: Andersen, obviously, has never been a part of this rivalry and only 21 players on UW's current roster were around when this game took place. However, the Heartland Trophy has a prominent place in UW's locker room and Andersen has played up the fact that the all-time series between the two programs is 42-42-2. And with UW and Iowa being so similar, you can tell from the Wisconsin side there's great respect for the way Iowa plays.
This rivalry has been put on the backburner since 2010, so the current roster is more familiar with the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe with Minnesota. I have a feeling after these two teams play each other a couple more times, those rivalry juices will start to boil over once again.
4. When Wisconsin is successful defensively, what is it doing well?
BW: It's the front seven pressuring the quarterback. Wisconsin's front seven has a ton of senior leaders on them, including all three starters on the defensive line and three of four linebackers. Against Northwestern when the Badgers unleashed a lot of pressure, UW got seven sacks from seven different players. A week later at Illinois, UW routinely rushed only three and dropped eight into coverage. The result was the Illini throwing for 319 yards.
Pressure, pressure, pressure. If Wisconsin's defense commits to that, the Badgers become a tough team to score on.
5. Will the Badgers fake at least one punt?
BW: Without question, that was Bielema's best coaching call in his seven years. Imagine how different the programs would be. At least from the Wisconsin standpoint, if the Badgers lose that game, they aren't in the Rose Bowl and likely not in a BCS bowl game. Iowa wins that game and the Hawkeyes go to 6-1, and maybe have enough gusto to pull out each of those three consecutive losses by four points or less.