Know Your Foe: Iowa

Done with its bye weeks, No.22 Wisconsin renews an old rivalry when the Badgers travel to Kinnick Stadium to meet Iowa Saturday morning, as the winner becomes bowl eligible. Badger Nation gets the inside scoop on this week's opponent from Hawkeye Insider publisher Rob Howe.

1) Despite low preseason expectations, Iowa is 5-3 and hasn't lost by more than 12 points all season, which includes a 10-point loss at No.4 Ohio State. What's been the big reason why the Hawkeyes are playing so competitive this season?

Howe: Two of the biggest reasons that expectations were low was that Iowa was breaking in a new quarterback no one had ever seen take a college snap, and the inability of Iowa's defense to pressure or contain the opposition's signal caller. Quarterback Jake Rudock has played beyond most anybody's expectations, particularly from a cerebral and poise standpoint. The Hawkeyes front seven has improved quite a bit, especially in terms of containment.

2) How has Rudock improved in his first season as a starter? What are his biggest areas of strength and weakness?

Howe: Rudock continues to become more comfortable each week. His play at Ohio State showed maturation beyond his years, particularly in the first half when he got the Hawkeyes in the right plays in a hostile environment. Rudock is a better runner than advertised and he can take a hit. His deep ball is inconsistent.

3) What did Iowa do different in its victory against Northwestern that it wasn't able to accomplish in back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Ohio State?

Howe: First and foremost, Michigan State and Ohio State are better than Northwestern. But the biggest thing was keeping things together through adversity in the second half. The Hawkeyes have led at halftime of every game this season and could not hang on against the Spartans and Buckeyes. After relinquishing a 10-0 lead against the Wildcats, Iowa executed and played aggressive in overtime.

4) What areas of Wisconsin do you expect will give Iowa trouble? Where do you think the Hawkeyes have the edge over the Badgers?

Howe: Iowa needs to get back to being able to stop the run or the Badgers will make it a laugher. The Hawkeyes entered the Ohio State game ranked eighth nationally in rushing defense but allowed the Buckeyes 273 yards and Northwestern 225 on the ground. I haven't seen much of Wisconsin this season but the Hawkeyes are pretty balanced on offense. Their offensive line is very good.

5) What is the one thing Iowa needs to do well in order to win Saturday?

Howe: Take care of the football. The Hawkeyes are 5-0 when winning the turnover battle and 0-3 when they're on the wrong end of it.

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