BadgerNation went to 7-0 on the season predicting a 21 point victory in what turned out to be a 24-point UW win. BadgerNation correctly highlighted Illinois' lack of a running game and the continued dominance of UW's running game. This was a mismatch from the outset where basics, not details, determined a winner. On to the Iowa matchup.
1, Wisconsin defensive backs
The number one key in determining this game will be Badger defensive backs Peniel Jean and Darius Hillary. Iowa does not have a strong running game (see Key #2). They will rely on QB Jake Rudock to move the ball. Rudock's QB rating last week against Northwestern was 80.0 and totaled 169 yards but only 6.3 yards per attempt. Opponents have been deliberately avoiding UW cornerback Sojourn Shelton's side of the field, so this week's key matchups will be Peniel Jean against Iowa receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley (276 yards on 32 receptions) and nickel back Darius Hillary against Hawkeyes receiver Damond Powell. Powell is big play threat, averaging 27.6 yards per catch. Neither Hillary nor Jean need to have a spectacular game for the Badgers to win, they just need to avoid complete coverage breakdowns.
2, Iowa's porous running game
Iowa is not a great offensive team and that is reflected in the second Key to Victory: Iowa's poor running game. Against a depleted Northwestern defense (NU defensive linemen Lowery and McEvilly weren't at full strength) Iowa ran for only 169 yards and a team average of 3.3 yards per carry. Fullback Mark Weisman is the team's rushing leader on the season. He managed only 56 yards against NU, 11 on one carry. This greatly sets up the stunting, blitzing front UW displayed against Northwestern two weeks ago. Key matchup: Badgers defensive lineman Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer against Iowa's OL. If they can stop the run it will greatly ease the pressure on UW's secondary as blitzes can get home against Iowa on second-and-long and third-and-long.
3, Iowa's rush defense
Iowa allowed 225 yards rushing against Northwestern, including 99 yards to freshman back Stephen Buckley. With UW coming to town, this does not bode well for the Hawkeyes. Key matchup – UW pulling guard Ryan Groy vs. Hawkeye defenders. Groy has great mobility and his blocks have sprung some of the longer runs by James White and Melvin Gordon. If the Hawkeyes begin to over-commit on pass or run blitzes, look for screen passes from QB Joel Stave to White.
4, Bye Week
This writeup would be different if Chris Borland was not able to start and last Saturday he wasn't ready. Additionally UW is 5-0 after the last five bye weeks.
5, Keeping out of field goal range
That means keeping the score out of the range of an Iowa field goal to tie or win the game. Basically UW's kicking game is subpar and will put UW at a disadvantage in this area for most remaining games in 2013 in the kicking game.
Fearless Prediction: Iowa did not score a second-half point, but still beat Northwestern, 17-10 in overtime. Vegas predicts a 9-point victory for UW over Iowa but the more we look at the key matchups the more this looks like a two touchdown UW victory, 28-14.
This week more than most the Badgers will rely on one key: defensive backs improving their reliability. Consistent coverage lapses could actually mean an Iowa victory. Solid coverage could lead to a Badger route.