Hawkeye offense v. Badger defense
|Iowa projected starters||Wisconsin projected starters|
|QB Nathan Chandler (Sr. 6-7, 250)||DE Darius Jones (Jr. 6-3, 268)|
|WR Maurice Brown (Sr. 6-2, 216)||DT Anttaj Hawthorne (Jr. 6-3, 300)|
|WR Ramon Ochoa (Sr. 5-10, 189)||DT Jason Jefferson (Jr. 6-3, 307)|
|RB Fred Russell (Sr. 5-8, 190)||DE Jonathan Welsh (Jr. 6-4, 228)|
|FB Edgar Cervantes (Sr. 6-3, 243)||LB LaMarr Watkins (So. 6-1, 216)|
|LT Robert Gallery (Sr. 6-7, 320)||LB Jeff Mack (Sr. 6-0, 244)|
|LG Mike Jones (Sr. 6-5, 306)||LB Alex Lewis (Sr. 6-1, 237)|
|C Eric Rothwell (Sr. 6-3, 295)||CB Scott Starks (Jr. 5-10, 168)|
|RG Peter McMahon (Jr. 6-7, 323)||SS Ryan Aiello (Sr. 6-1, 196)|
|RT Sam Aiello (Sr. 6-5, 307)||FS Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)|
|TE Erik Jensen (Sr. 6-3, 259)||CB Chuckie Cowans (Jr. 5-8, 169)|
Wisconsin: CB Levonne Rowan (So. 6-1, 178), LB Kareem Timbers (Jr. 6-3, 209), DT/DE Nick Cochart (Sr. 6-1, 267), DT Kalvin Barrett (Jr. 6-2, 316), WR/CB Brandon Williams (So. 5-11, 170), LB Mark Zalewski (Fr. 6-2, 232), LB Elliot Goode (So. 6-2, 240), LB Kyle McCorison (Sr. 6-0, 242).
When the Hawkeyes have the ball...
Iowa possesses a talented, balanced offense. The Hawkeyes are not as explosive as Minnesota or Purdue, but they can move the football. It starts with Fred Russell, the No. 2 rusher in the Big Ten and proceeds with Nathan Chandler, who has thrown for only 1,804 yards (10th in the Big Ten) but has delivered 16 touchdown passes.
Russell runs behind, and Chandler is protected by, a very good offensive line, headlined by left tackle Robert Gallery, perhaps the best offensive lineman in the nation.
When Chandler drops back to pass he will often look for a trio of talented receivers: Ramon Ochoa (31 catches, 457 yards, five touchdowns), Maurice Brown (25, 407, 3) and Calvin Davis (23, 330, 1). Iowa had success throwing the ball against Minnesota last week, led by Ochoa's nine receptions.
The Badgers defense is coming off its best performance of the season but this is an entirely different offensive attack from the one Michigan State employed last week. Expecting a barrage of pass plays, the Badgers were able to play a 3-3-5 defense throughout the game, often dropping eight players in coverage while counting on Alex Lewis, Anttaj Hawthorne and Jonathan Welsh to provide a pass rush, which they did with abundant success. Lewis, though, is unlikely to see extended duty at rush end against a team with a strong running game, like Iowa.
Still, expect Wisconsin's defense play to well. The Badgers have typically fared better this season against teams that line up and run the ball, though the team likely remembers the pounding Iowa delivered on both sides of the ball last season.
Badger offense v. Hawkeye defense
|Wisconsin projected starters||Iowa projected starters|
|QB Jim Sorgi (Sr. 6-5, 190)||DE Howard Hodges (Sr. 6-2, 255)|
|TB Dwayne Smith (So. 5-11, 225)||DT Jared Clauss (Sr. 6-5, 280)|
|FB Matt Bernstein (So. 6-2, 273)||DT Derrick Robinson (Jr. 6-5, 285)|
|WR Lee Evans (Sr. 5-11, 202)||DE Matt Roth (Jr. 6-4, 261)|
|WR B. Williams (So. 5-11, 170)||LB Grant Steen (Sr. 6-3, 242)|
|LT Morgan Davis (Jr. 6-5, 326)||LB Abdul Hodge (So. 6-2, 232)|
|LG Dan Buenning (Jr. 6-4, 298)||LB Chad Greenway (So. 6-4, 240)|
|C Donovan Raiola (So. 6-3, 290)||CB Jovon Johnson (So. 5-9, 172)|
|RG J. Clinkscale (Jr. 6-3, 308)||SS Bob Sanders (Sr. 5-8, 202)|
|RT Mike Lorenz (So. 6-5, 313)||FS Sean Considine (Jr. 6-0, 202)|
|TE Tony Paciotti (Jr. 6-4, 263)||CB Antwan Allen (So. 5-10, 170)|
Wisconsin: TB Booker Stanley (Fr. 5-10, 207), TB Anthony Davis (Jr. 5-8, 191), WR/TE Owen Daniels (So. 6-3, 213), WR Jonathan Orr (So. 6-3, 190), WR Darrin Charles (Jr. 6-6, 210), TE Jason Pociask (So. 6-3, 250), WR Ernest Mason (Fr. 5-11, 180), WR Brandon White (So. 6-3, 182), OT/TE Joe Thomas (Fr. 6-8, 280), QB Matt Schabert (Jr. 6-2, 203).
Iowa: DB Miguel Merrick (Fr. 6-0, 190), DT Matt Neubauer (So. 6-6, 254), LB George Lewis (Jr. 6-2, 236), DE Tyler Luebke (Jr. 6-1, 280), CB Chigozie Ejiasi (Jr. 6-0, 200), LB Kevin Worthy (Sr. 6-2, 235), SS Chris Smith (Sr. 5-11, 195).
When the Badgers have the ball…
Wisconsin's offense has been running on all cylinders the last two weeks and while Lee Evans awe-inspiring five-touchdown performance understandably grabs the headlines, it is Jim Sorgi's arm that has led the way, throwing for nearly 700 yards and nine touchdowns in the last two weeks. The fireworks have not been reserved solely for Evans. Brandon Williams continues to make plays and Darrin Charles has come on strong with eight receptions for 141 yards and one touchdown the last two weeks.
The Badgers will likely play without tailback Anthony Davis yet again and Booker Stanley remains questionable. Dwayne Smith was fantastic last week, but against Iowa's physical defense it would be a huge luxury if Stanley could provide a second running option.
Iowa's defense, meanwhile, is on par with the other three elite defenses in the Big Ten - Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan. Iowa is particularly strong against the run, holding opponents to just 88.8 yards per game and 2.4 yards per carry. The passing defense is also solid, allowing just 220.2 yards per game.
It should be noted that the stats are a little skewed by Iowa's fantastic pass rush, which has produced 30 sacks for 197 yards lost (sacks count against quarterbacks' rushing yards in college football). Ends Matt Roth (11 sacks) and Howard Hodges (9) lead the rush off the edge. The Badgers will also have to deal with a very active linebacking corps, with Grant Steen complimenting the Big Ten's two leading tackles, Abdul Hodge (119 tackles, nine for loss) and Chad Greenway (117, 10.5). In the secondary, Jovon Johnson is a solid corner with four interceptions and 10 pass break ups. Strong safety Bob Sanders is as good as any safety in the nation.
Special Teams matchup
|Wisconsin specialists||Iowa specialists|
|P R.J. Morse (Jr. 6-1, 246)||David Bradley (Jr. 6-2, 205)|
|PK Mike Allen (Jr. 6-2, 186)||Nate Kaeding (Sr. 6-0, 177)|
|KO Scott Campbell (Sr. 6-0, 245)||Kaeding|
|KR B. Williams (So. 5-11, 170)||Ramon Ochoa (Sr. 5-10, 189)|
|PR Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)||Ochoa|
|LS Matt Katula (Jr. 6-6, 282)||Kevin Worthy (Sr. 6-2, 235)|
|H Matt Schabert (Jr. 6-2, 203)||Bradley|
Iowa has some of the best special teams in the country led by Nate Kaeding, who looks poised for his second consecutive Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker. David Bradley does not boom his punts, with a 40.2-yard average, but his net punting average of 37.2 is solid. Ramon Ochoa can be a game breaker as a returner and the coverage units are very good.
Wisconsin's special teams have gotten stronger and more consistent as the season has progressed with the exception of field goal kicking, which has been unreliable.
Jim Sorgi cannot possibly continue throwing the ball as well as he has, can he? Iowa's defense is certainly more capable than Minnesota's or Michigan State's, but the way the Badgers have played recently, give the edge to Wisconsin. As good as the Hawkeyes are, man-for-man, the Badgers offense should put points on the board Saturday and, yes, Sorgi could keep this up. Holding Wisconsin below 30 will be a successful day for Iowa.
Wisconsin's defense has to be riding high after last week's performance. The Hawkeyes balanced attack, though, should have success chipping away. The offenses that have thrived against the Badgers have spread them out and taken advantage of mismatches in the secondary. Iowa does not have the personnel or the scheme to do that, but the Hawkeyes match up well anyway. Iowa is so physical upfront and so strong in the backfield that they may be able to beat Wisconsin at their game. Still, the momentum from last week, and the memory of Iowa's dominating 20-3 win last season, should push the Badgers defense to excel.
In addition to a rivalry game, this contest has obvious Bowl ramifications. The winner should fall no further than the fourth selection among Big Ten-affiliated Bowls, while the loser could slip as far as the Music City Bowl. When the day is done expect the Hawkeyes to be thinking of Texas or Nashville, while the Badgers dream of a trip to the Outback Bowl.
Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Iowa 19