1. Despite what happened last week against Penn State, Wisconsin brings a pretty physical, strong defense to Iowa City. If you're the Iowa coaches, how much Jewel Hampton do you sprinkle in to keep Shonn Greene fresh?
Jon: I think you get him at least 15 carries. I think two series for Shonn, one series for Jewell. Of course, game situations might not dictate a scheduled plan like that. But I think that Iowa has been doing a solid job the last couple games of getting Hampton some carries. Last week, he got a lot of reps because the game was out of hand and you don't want to risk injury. I think that was a great confidence boost for him, as well as a boost for the staff to put him out there. 25 carries for Shonn, 10 to 15 carries for Jewell. If that happens, good things will happen for Iowa.
Rob: Greene is in much better condition than he was earlier this season. That showed in Bloomington last weekend when it was unseasonably hot and he rambled through that and an early-game injury. That said, there's a reason that the Badgers use more than one guy back there when any one could probably carry the road by himself. Hampton has shown he's capable. I think you make sure he gets 8-10 carries each week now.
Brian: That's a tough question. It's pretty obvious that more Shonn Greene means a more effective Jewel Hampton, as we saw late in the game against Indiana. However, the more Jewel Hampton, the more effective Shonn Greene can be with his late-game carries. I think it's going to be entirely dependant upon the game. The first half is going to be dominated by Shonn Greene in terms of carries, with Jewel Hampton getting the series right before the end of the first quarter. If it's close in the third, I expect to see more Jewel in the third quarter to prepare for 10-15 carries for Greene in the fourth. If Iowa's got a bit of breathing room, meaning more than one score, I think we see Greene try and widen that before bringing Jewel in during the fourth quarter.
2. Travis Beckum has performed well against the Hawkeyes in the past. How much of a concern is he in this game considering the Badgers QB situation?
Jon: I think he is a huge concern, because if I am Dustin Scherer, I watch a lot of tape of the 2006 Iowa-Wisconsin game and see where Tyler Donovan hurt Iowa. Donovan was making his first career start that day, too, against Iowa in Kinnick Stadium. That was a 'hello, world' game for Beckum; 8 receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown. Iowa's defense hasn't changed too much since then, and Wisconsin's coaches will use a game plan that helps exploit where Iowa leaves them open; underneath and between the corner and safety in the zone. That's tight end time.
Rob: I think he is a concern. With a new quarterback in there, he could get some happy feet and look to unload it early with Clayborn and King baring down on him. Beckum causes mismatches and do some things after the catch. Iowa needs to take away the running game first and then the underneath routes. I don't think Iowa will get much deep.
Brian: I think Iowa's corners are much, much more athletic and present than they were in 2006, nothing against Shada and 2006 Godfrey (who was a completely different player in 2007). Iowa gets to see the same game film Wisconsin did, and they're going to take away the outside edges that Beckum exploted (and Lee Evans a few years earlier, again with a young quarterback seeing his first action), forcing the young quarterback to take his shots down the middle, which puts guys like A.J. Edds and Pat Angerer on Beckum. I'll take that match-up.
3. If it comes down to special teams, who has the advantage?
Jon: There is 3.6 inches per kickoff return worth of difference between these two teams to date this season. David Gilreath is probably more of a threat to break one all the way at this point, over Jewell Hampton. Gilreath has the experience in this area. But Daniel Murray getting hang time on his kicks will be huge in this game, as Gilreath tends to wilt under the pressure of physical play. As a team, Iowa averages more 3.5 yards of field position on kickoff coverage...if you are confused, that is a good thing.
Iowa is giving up .8 yards per punt return this year, and just six of Ryan Donahue's punts have been returned at all. Iowa has an advantage in the punting game, and in a game like this, that is no small thing. While Donahue will not approach Reggie Roby's NCAA record of averaging 49.8 yards per punt, he is averagintg 46.4 yards per punt in three Big Ten games. Gilreath returns punts for the Badgers as well, but is averaging 4.4 yards per return to Andy Brodell's 11.8. The Badgers are dead last in the Big Ten in returning punts.
Trent Mossbrucker is 9 of 10 on the year, Phillip Welch is 9 of 11. Welch is 1-2 from 50 yards out, and he missed another field goal 30-39 yards. Mossbrucker is 5 of 6 30-39, with one miss at 32 yards. He has not attempted a field goal beyond 39 yards.
I would give the advantage to Iowa in this area.
Rob: Iowa. Wisconsin might hold an edge with more explosive return men, but I like how Donahue, Mossbrucker and Murray are performing right now. Iowa's coverage teams also are improving.
Brian: Jayme Murphy vs David Gilreath, round 2. Be there. Ding ding ding, Murphy wins with a first-round K.O.
4. Which quarterback will get off to a better start, Ricky Stanzi or Dustin Sherer?
Jon: I am not yet ready to put Rick into Drew Tate status as it relates to the first few drives of a game, but like Tate, it seems like it takes Stanzi a few series before he hits his stride. I expect both teams to come out and feel their way running the ball. It will therefore be very critical as to which quarterback can best convert in the 3rd and 5 type of situations that will undoubtedly be presented to each quarterback early on. I like Rick due to the home game, but I also think Wisconsin will plan to take advantage of the areas in the Iowa zone that the Hawkeyes usually leave open.
Rob: Stanzi. He's got the advantage of being at home with a offense that's been much more balanced and successful. Ricky has started slowly in the last few ballgames, but he's going to break out of that soon and this could be the spot. Sherer has the weight of a three-game losing streak on his shoulders in a tough road environment.
Brian: Stanzi. I think teams key in so hard on Shonn Greene to start the game, that the play action pass with throws into the flat is going to be there all day, but most importantly, it'll be there early. If Stanzi can hit 2 or 3 of these types of passes on the first drive, he's in. The good thing, however, is that even if he doesn't, he's shown the ability to shake off a rough start. Teammates comment on his calm demeanor in the huddle, forgetting the next play and moving on. That helps.
5. Have we worn out the phrase 'must win game' this year? We used it last week, but as you look at the next two games on the schedule as it relates to Iowa's bowl hopes, the same could apply.
Jon: Speaking for myself, I know I used this term last week and I think the same applies this week. The loss at home against Northwestern took away Iowa's margin for error, in my opinion. And since I picked Iowa to win that game before the year, and also picked the Hawks to beat the Badgers and Illini, I see these next two games as being must wins, especially with the way Minnesota is playing and how strong Penn State is. I also picked Minnesota to beat Iowa in the Metrodome before the year, and while I still think that is winnable, I really don't want to see Iowa's bowl destiny (meaning a 7th win) come down to a win or a loss in Minneapolis.
Rob: I think this one is a must win. And Iowa is in this spot because it lost three in a row. You've got a hobbling team coming to town with a new QB after you've been on the road for two weeks. You also don't want to carry a loss against a rival into the bye week. Also, a loss here puts more pressure on you to win at Illinois and/or Minnesota. Hawks have to have this one.
Brian: While watching Shonn Greene's interview on the Big Ten Network the other day, he mentioned that this has been a game the staff has placed a huge amount of emphasis on, a huge game. I'm excited to hear that. In the past, it seemed like everything was "just another game." The past three weeks, this team has come out emotionally ready for the game, particularly on defense. I'm not sure if it's quite a "must win", but the bye week and upcoming games look a whole lot better at 5-3 than 4-4.
6. Who is your pick to click?
Jon: Brett Greenwood. I know, this one may seem out of left field, but I think that he could come up big this week. If Wisconsin starts Everidge at quarterback, he has proven to be erratic this year and several of his passes have been high and long, back in safety country. If Scherer starts, it will be the first start of his career and in the second half against Penn State, he too was high and long with his throws. Wisconsin's offensive line is not as healthy as it was to start the year, and I think the Hawks can get some pressure on the quarterback, because I don't think the Badgers are going to break out and be the first team to be very successful against Iowa on the ground. If Greenwood is in position, he could have a shot at some game changing plays.
Rob: I'll go defense this week, always a good bet when these two teams lock up. Let's take a shot with Matt Kroul. Wisconsin will be locked onto Mitch King with his effort last week and that should free up Kroul.
Brian: Shonn Greene. I'm going to break my streak of garbage picks and go with Greene. Hope I didn't just jinx him.