It can be difficult to rebound quickly from a loss, particularly when it’s an emotional game against No. 2 Ohio State in overtime. Despite losing its second straight, Wisconsin will need to regain its focus as they get set to play their third conference road game at Iowa (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) in the battle of the Heartland Trophy.
It is always difficult to win on the road in the Big Ten, but the Badgers (4-2, 1-2) are 5-1 on the road since Paul Chryst became head coach. UW has also won the past three games in Iowa City, and the Badgers would like nothing more to continue their success to stay in the thick of the Big Ten West race.
The rankings for the Front Seven are determined based on performance from last week, expectations this coming week and need. Here are our seven players most important in helping the Badgers to a victory over Iowa.
Last Week’s Rankings in Parentheses
1, Jack Cichy MLB (5): Cichy registered a new career-high with 15 tackles (11 solo) in the loss to Ohio State, the second consecutive week he has registered double-digit tackles. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, Cichy will once again have the chance to create the pressure he did with Iowa allowing a total of 38 tackles for loss and 18 sacks through seven games. With OLB T.J. Watt getting the attention on defense, it has allowed Cichy to create the pressure Wisconsin has needed to succeed on defense. Since conference play started, Cichy has registered five of his seven tackles for loss in three conference games.
2, Corey Clement RB (3): Can Clement put together two strong rushing performances in consecutive weeks? After rushing for 164 yards against Ohio State, Clement will go against an Iowa defense allowing 151.9 yards a game on the ground. Fresh from the bye week, Clement showed the burst he has been lacking this season and was able to help take some pressure off of Alex Hornibrook. If Clement can consistently put together performances like he did last weekend, it should give the passing game more open looks with teams loading the box. Clement will need to help sustain drives and help make the most of Wisconsin’s opportunities in the red zone, a hit-and-miss area for the team thus far.
3, Alex Hornibrook QB (2): It was a better performance by Hornibrook against Ohio State, as he passed for over 200 yards for the first time in his career. If the running game can continue generating big hits, Hornibrook and the passing game can really flourish against a defense that’s 11th in the conference in pass defense (219 yards per game). Hornibrook will need to take his time in the pocket, not rush any throws, give his receivers time to get open and make accurate throws where only his intended target can catch it. Iowa has registered five interceptions this year and Hornibrook has thrown six interceptions in his last four games. If Hornibrook doesn’t make good throws, the Hawkeyes are talented enough in the secondary to instantly flip field position.
4, T.J. Watt OLB (1): With Vince Biegel questionable for Saturday, Watt can continue to expect to see attention from opposing offenses to limit his backfield pressure. But with Iowa allowing 2.5 sacks a game, Watt has the opportunity to provide his playmaking ability on defense. In order for that to happen, Wisconsin needs to make sure Iowa is working behind the chains on third down and throw a variety of pressures at senior quarterback C.J. Beathard, preventing the veteran time to go through his reads. Watt leads the team in tackles for loss and sacks and has been a key part of UW’s third-down defense, delivering 3.5 of his eight TFLs on the money down.
5, Michael Deiter OL (4): What will likely be a physical game in the trenches, Deiter will be the point man for the offensive line to point out pressures and answer the challenge of consistently opening up lanes for the running backs. Deiter will be lining up against Jaleel Johnson, who leads the team with 3.5 sacks and is second with 4.5 tackles for loss. In order for Deiter to win his battle, the sophomore needs to keep his pad level low to gain a better push and have proper footwork to create a solid base. Doing that should give the backs the space they need to have successful runs, Hornibrook time to go through his progressions and for the offense to control the clock.
6, Jazz Peavy WR (7): Peavy’s fingerprints were all over Wisconsin’s success on offense Saturday, as he had 76 yards through the air and gained 70 yards on the ground. Chryst should continue to find ways of getting the football in Peavy’s hands considering he consistently picked up first downs against Ohio State. Five of his six runs resulted in first downs and he had two receptions on third down – one moving the chains and one going for a touchdown. Peavy’s ability to gain positive plays will be critical, since there is a good chance he’ll be lining up across from one of the nation’s best cornerbacks in Desmond King. If Peavy finds a way to beat him off the line of scrimmage, it will be a huge bonus for the UW offense.
7, Derrick Tindal CB (6): Tindal may not be pleased with how the last two games have ended for him but he has remained steady in his play. Iowa averages 184.1 yards passing, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes have three players who have registered at least 280 receiving yards. Tindal leads Wisconsin with seven pass breakups and has five pass deflections in three Big Ten games. Going against a quarterback who is completing 60.1 percent of his passes, Tindal will need to be able to make sure that he doesn’t allow his man to get a clean break off the line of scrimmage and create separation.
Others to Note
T.J. Edwards MLB: Iowa ranks seventh in rushing offense (180 yards per game) and relies on the combination of Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels, a duo who have combined for 1,181 yards and over five yards a carry. Edwards will be able to assist Cichy to make sure the dual backs can’t have much success through the middle. Edwards has averaged 10 tackles over Wisconsin’s last two games.
Troy Fumagalli TE: Fumagalli had been quiet since registering seven receptions for 100 yards against LSU (only nine catches in the next four games) but led the team in receiving with seven receptions for 84 yards against the Buckeyes. Hornibrook has developed a good chemistry with both Peavy and Fumagalli, especially on third down. On Saturday, three of Fumagalli’s seven receptions came on third down and all resulted in a first down.
Alec James DE: James continues to put together a nice season along the defensive line and is coming off a career-high eight tackles. Active throughout the season, James has provide the necessary pressure to make his own plays (second on the team with three sacks) and help open up pressures for the linebackers. If James can put together a similar performance against Iowa, it only helps elevate how strong the defense is for Wisconsin.
Anthony Lotti/P.J. Rosowski P: It is difficult to know who Chryst will elect to use as his punter. Despite Lotti being listed as the starter on the depth chart, it was Rosowski who served – and struggled - as the punter against Ohio State. Lotti and Rosowski both have an average of 37.5 yards per punt on 14 and 13 punts, respectively. Regardless who punts, Wisconsin has to start delivering better hand time and distance on the kicks. Iowa ranks third in Big Ten with an 11.1-yard punt return average.