UW v. Iowa, Five things to watch

BadgerNation.com's keys to UW's matchup with the Hawkeyes Saturday in Camp Randall Stadium

Barry Alvarez: The mood at Camp Randall Stadium for Barry Alvarez's final home game with be extraordinarily festive. The Badgers will try their best to keep from being distracted, but Saturday is bound to be an emotional day for the players and coaches, with UW's senior day and Alvarez's day wrapped up together. The trick for Wisconsin will be playing under control with that emotion.

Both Wisconsin and Iowa have a lot to play Saturday. For the Badgers this goes beyond senior day and Alvarez's final home game. The team has the opportunity to finish undefeated at home for the second consecutive season and would likely clinch a Jan. 2 bowl berth with a win. Iowa needs one more victory to become bowl eligible.

The Hawkeyes will be challenged to match Wisconsin's emotion and to do its best to keep an exuberant Badger crowd from becoming delirious with joy.

Bounce back game for Badger offense? After getting manhandled by Penn State's terrific defense last week, it is questionable whether Wisconsin really needs to bounce back offensively, or simply needs to play someone other than Penn State. The Nittany Lions, after all, have made short work of most opposing offenses this season.

And for most of the year the Badger offense has performed at an extremely high level.

Wisconsin, though, will be challenged again this week. Iowa is allowing just 19.0 points per game and the Hawkeyes boast two of the best linebackers in the country in the Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge.

On paper, Iowa's offense has a clear advantage versus the Badger defense. So Wisconsin is going to have to put points on the board early and often to come away with a win.

Albert Young: It is amazing what a little health can do. Last year, after being ravaged by injuries, Iowa had one of the nation's worst rushing offenses. This time around Albert Young is No. 11 in the nation in rushing. Young has been exceptional, while the Badgers rush defense has been miserable during the Big Ten season, particularly in recent weeks. If the Badgers cannot figure out a way to slow down Iowa's running game, the Hawkeyes will have their way with UW's defense and Alvarez will not finish his Camp Randall career with a win.

Drew Tate: Yes, Iowa is yet another team with a mobile quarterback. Have the Badgers figured out how to defend one? If not, see above. Tate has the ability to dominate a game with his legs or his arm, just like Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson, who made short work of the Badger defense last week.

Tate has not had the dominant season some expected of him before this campaign began, but he has been quite effective, with 1,907 yards and 13 touchdowns passing and just four interceptions. With Iowa actually owning a running game this year, Tate has not been forced to scramble anywhere near as often, but he is still more than capable of beating the Badgers in that fashion.

Turnovers: In its game against Iowa last season, UW coughed the ball up four times and turned it over twice on downs in six straight second-half possessions. The Hawkeyes turned those mistakes into 16 points and a 30-7 win for a share of the Big Ten Championship.

2004 was an opportunistic year for the Hawkeyes, who caused an incredible 32 turnovers and boasted a +13 turnover margin. This season Iowa has fallen back to earth, forcing just 13 turnovers and recording an even turnover margin.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, has been making up for a shoddy defense by forcing turnovers and taking care of the football. The Badgers have a +8 turnover margin and have forced 18 turnovers in seven Big Ten games.

In what should be a tight, back-and-forth football game, preserving possession could be the ultimate key.


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