Breakdown & Prediction - Iowa

BadgerNation breaks down Wisconsin's matchup with Iowa at Kinnick Stadium Saturday afternoon, specifically the return of junior tailback Melvin Gordon to Iowa City, and offer our prediction.

No.14 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) vs. Iowa (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, November 22 at 2:30 p.m. CT

Stadium –Kinnick Stadium (70,585/FieldTurf)

Television –ABC/ESPN2 (Dave Flemming, Chris Spielman, Todd McShay)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas, Mark Tauscher)

National Radio - Compass Media (Gregg Daniels and Tony Hill)

Series –Wisconsin leads 43-42-2 (Iowa leads 24-17-1 in Iowa City)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 28-9, on November 2, 2013 in Iowa City

Series Notes

Wisconsin has won four of its last six meetings with Iowa, including wins in three of its last four trips to Kinnick Stadium.

Dating back to 1996, Wisconsin has won five of the teams’ nine meetings in Iowa City.

Since the Heartland Trophy debuted in 2004, the series is tied 4-4.

With 87 all-time meetings between the Badgers and Hawkeyes, Iowa is the third most-played rival in UW history. The Badgers have faced Minnesota 123 times — the most played rivalry of any FBS teams — and Northwestern 96 times.

The teams’ two-year hiatus in 2011 and 2012 marked just the second break in their all-time series since it became an annual matchup in 1937. The teams also went two seasons without facing off in 1993 and 1994.

The Badgers are 9-6 against Iowa since breaking an 18-game winless streak against the Hawkeyes in 1997. From 1977 to 1996, Wisconsin was 0-17-1 against Iowa.

Wisconsin is 7-2 against unranked Iowa teams since its win over the Hawkeyes in 1997.

Wisconsin Notes

With one more victory, Wisconsin would have at least nine wins for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

Wisconsin owns the nation’s top defense, allowing just 244.0 yards per game. The Badgers also rank No. 3 in scoring defense (15.3 ppg), No. 5 in rushing defense (96.7 ypg) and No. 3 in passing defense (147.3 ypg) — leading the Big Ten in all categories.

During its five-game win streak, Wisconsin has averaged 44.0 points and 505.2 yards per game on offense and held its opponents to averages of 15.0 points and 202.4 yards on defense.

Including their win in the inaugural Freedom Trophy game vs. Nebraska, the Badgers have won seven straight trophy games, dating back to a 20-10 loss to Iowa in 2009.

The Badgers have allowed an average of 15.3 points per game. UW has allowed fewer than 15 points per game in a season three times in the last 50 years: 1998 (11.9 ppg), 1999 (12.8 ppg) and 2006 (12.1 ppg).

Iowa Notes

Iowa has scored 30 or more points in four Big Ten games for the first time since 2005 (4). The last time Iowa scored 30 or more points in five Big Ten games was 2002 (6). Under head coach Kirk Ferentz, Iowa is 62-6 when scoring 30 or more points.

Iowa has three wins when trailing or tied at the half this year (trailed Ball State, 7-3;trailed Pitt, 17-7; tied Purdue, 10-10).

In Big Ten games only, Iowa leads the Big Ten averaging 25.5 yards in kickoff returns. In all games, RB Jonathan Parker averages 24.7 yards per return, No. 2 in the conference.

Nineteen Hawkeyes have caught at least one pass this season (eight backs, seven receivers, four tight ends). The Hawkeyes have had 10 or more players record at least one catch in four of their seven wins.

Iowa has outscored its opponents, 96-45, in the first quarter, and scored a touchdown on its opening drive in three straight games before last week, as its 74-yard opening drive stalled at the 1-yard line.

Breakdown

Jumping up Heisman Trophy projection boards and national radio broadcasts after having a big hand in Wisconsin’s signature 59-24 victory over No.11 Nebraska Saturday, Melvin Gordon appears to have taken the media circus in stride.

Part of the reason is because Gordon’s low-key personality has allowed him to use the forums to heap praise on his teammates. The other reason is because the trophy talk and people reveling in his 408-yard record performance have clouded over one of his least favorite topics: de-committing from Iowa.

“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” said Gordon.

Looking back at the recruitment that feels like years ago, but Gordon committed to Iowa before his senior year at Kenosha Bradford because he was guaranteed to play running back. He held an offer from Wisconsin at the time, but the then-UW staff wavered on whether Gordon would be better suited to play as a defensive back in college. It was a decision UW quickly recanted after the former three-star prospect started putting up eye-popping numbers.

“I committed to Iowa pretty early in my career,” said Gordon. “I took a visit to Wisconsin and just fell in love with it…I had a great relationship with the running backs coach (Lester Erb), I thought the head coach (Kirk Ferentz) was a great guy and it had nothing to do with the coaches. I just got a better feel with Wisconsin.”

Instead of having the potential to be a star right away with the Hawkeyes, Gordon committed to a program that was full of talented running backs, including Montee Ball and James White. He admitted it was tough sitting and watching behind the pair, especially when Ball is breaking NCAA records and White was taking some of his carries.

Gordon even went so far to call his redshirt freshman year “depressing.” Having his true freshman season cut short after suffering a groin injury in the nonconference season, Gordon only had 62 carries (compared to 356 for Ball and 125 for White) in 2012 and admitted it was adversity that has helped shape his career.

“That was rough,” said Gordon. “The good thing about it was being able to learn from those guys, earn how to practice, learn how to work, how to show up every day. Those guys are definitely a big part of the reason of why I’m at where I’m at today.”

With 1,909 yards on 223 attempts through 10 games, Gordon needs 91 rushing yards to reach 2,000 for the season. If he can do so in fewer than 28 carries, Gordon will be the fastest to reach 2,000 yards in NCAA history.

He’s almost assured of breaking Ron Dayne’s single season rushing record, challenging Barry Sanders’ official FBS single season rushing and has been the workhorse all season, nearly doubling the amount of carries than backup Corey Clement (223 to 119).

“They call on my jersey number, they call on me to make plays and that’s what it is,” said Gordon. “They call on Corey to make plays and that’s what it is. Obviously he wishes to get more carries. I’ve been there with him and encourage him here and there, but I’m who the coaches want in. They ask me to go in the game, I’m not going to tell them no. Just as a competitor and player, that’s not something you should do. I really don’t care about carrying the load.”

Whether Gordon returns for his senior season or not, Saturday will the junior’s final appearance in Iowa City and one he quietly hopes ends with a better individual effort. Heckled by Iowa fans in his first trip back last season, Gordon has 62 yards on 17 carries, eventually stepping aside in favor of White, who rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

Don’t expect that this time around, not against an Iowa defense that has been susceptible to stopping the run and now with a Big Ten West Division championship within their grasp.

“The main focus is the Big Ten championship,” said Gordon. “We obviously would have liked to get in to the College Football Playoffs, but we have more losses than we wanted. The Big Ten Championship, we can still obtain that goal and it’s right there for us. We control our own fate and that’s obviously the big focus and the main focus right now.”

Prediction

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said that last season’s matchup with Iowa was the most physical game the Badgers played all season. Expect more of the same, which is why I don’t buy the notion of a “trap game” following UW’s emotional win last weekend over Nebraska.

This game comes down to whether Wisconsin can block consistently and effectively against Iowa, especially against the Hawkeyes’ secondary, which has shown they like to cheat up their safeties close to the line in a similar way that Purdue tried to do against Wisconsin. As a result, Wisconsin passed the ball effectively in the second quarter and hit some big plays in the run game with Gordon.

Wisconsin is an 8.5-point favorite and playing with plenty of momentum, but Iowa tends to play better at home and can win the division with two wins to close out the season. After the defense I saw Wisconsin deliver on Saturday, I think the Badgers should be able to shut down the Hawkeyes.

Wisconsin 31, Iowa 14

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 8-2

Against the Spread: 5-4

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