Tough Defense, Big Problems

Despite having one of the top defenses in the nation, the Hawkeyes are making headlines for other reasons, as they bring a lot of off-the-field baggage to Madison.

MADISON - The old saying goes that offense scores points but defense wins championships. If that saying holds true, who knows what to expect when No.9 Wisconsin opens the Big Ten season against Iowa under the lights at Camp Randall.

The Hawkeyes (2-1) have allowed just 18 points to rank third in the nation in scoring defense and are fifth in total defense – allowing 212.7 yards per game. Iowa is the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision – or Division I-A - that hasn't allowed an opponent to get into the end zone.

The front four of the Iowa defense is what makes this unit click. Senior ends Kenny Iwebema (two sacks) and Bryan Mattison (three sacks), with the help of tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, have been causing havoc on opposing quarterbacks thus far. The defensive line is the main reason Iowa is giving up only 62.7 yards rushing and 150 passing yards.

"They're solid, fundamental, tough [and] they're physical," head coach Bret Bielema said. "They kind of do what they do. Maybe there isn't a lot of variation off of what they've done, the coaches that they have are tremendous technicians and that's why they've been able to be so consistent over the years."

Not everything in Iowa, however, is earning positive national attention.

- The Hawkeyes suspended wide receiver Dominique Douglas – projected to be Iowa's No.1 receiver - and backup wide out Anthony Bowman for their role in a credit card scandal and both face criminal charges.

- Head coach Kirk Ferentz last week dismissed long-snapper Clint Huntrods from the team for violating team rules after he was arrested and charged with interference with official acts, public intoxication and urination in public.

- Second-string strong safety Lance Tillison was suspended for this weekend's game and next week against Indiana for driving while intoxicated.

To help put an end to the arrests and poor decision making, Ferentz instituted a nightly curfew where all Iowa players need to clear downtown Iowa City by 10 p.m. every day, with bed checks at midnight.

"We moved on as a team, as a staff and handled things appropriately," Ferentz said. "All that being said, we brought some things upon ourselves … We talk all the time about you get what you deserve. We had a media feeding frenzy and we invited it. We opened the door for it … Bottom line is right now we have to be beyond reproach. Everybody on the team has a responsibility to realize that and do a good job."

The offense is the Achilles heel of the Hawkeyes, which should pose well for a struggling Wisconsin defense that has allowed over 300 yards in three-straight games.

Despite having two of the top running backs in the Big Ten in seniors Albert Young and Damain Sims – a duo that combined for 1,443 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season - on their roster, Iowa has averaged only 161 yards per game, ranked dead last in the Big Ten.

One of the reasons for the lack of output could be the Iowa offensive line – a group that starts three sophomores, one freshman and a junior. The other reason could be sophomore quarterback Jake Christensen.

For the first time in four years, the Iowa quarterback position does not belong to Drew Tate, who ended his career ranked in the top five of virtually every passing category. To say the least, Christensen has big shoes to fill and his stats - 529 passing yards, five TDs and one INT – aren't doing it so far.

Iowa enters the Big Ten conference season losing five-straight conference games while the Badgers have won seven straight.

The Wisconsin-Iowa series has been dead even at 40-40-2 and the Badgers lead the all-time series in Madison 25-17-1. However, Wisconsin has not defeated Iowa at Camp Randall since 2001. But, for the first time in school history, Wisconsin holds the Paul Bunyan Axe [Minnesota] and the Heartland Trophy [Iowa] at the same time, a record Bielema wants to continue in 2007.

"We hold the trophy from the Iowa and Minnesota games, but there's a huge emphasis from us as well that that trophy isn't just a trophy, it's a representation of a victory," Bielema said. "It's one that you get to [enjoy] for an entire year and we've been fortunate to have this one the entire last year."

Iowa (2-1) vs. No.9 Wisconsin (3-0)

Date/Time - Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7:13 p.m. CDT

Stadium – Camp Randall Stadium (FieldTurf / 80,321)

Television - ABC (Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit, Lisa Salters)

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

Series – Series Tied 40-40-2

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 24-21, on Nov. 11, 2006 in Iowa City

Notes:

- The Badgers have won nine straight at Camp Randall Stadium since losing to Iowa on Nov. 12, 2005 -- their only loss in 21 home games since 2004. That's also the last time the Hawkeyes defeated a Top 25 team.

- Wisconsin owns the nation's longest active Bowl Subdivision winning streak at 12 games. It's the second-longest winning streak in school history, trailing only a 17-game stretch from 1900-02.

- The Badgers have won 19 of their last 20 night games, including nine in a row. This will be only the sixth night game at Camp Randall Stadium in the last 12 years. In its last two night games at home, UW defeated No. 3 Ohio State, 17-10, (Oct. 11, 2003) and No. 14 Michigan, 23-20, (Sept. 24, 2005).

- Head coach Bret Bielema earned four letters as a member of the Iowa football team (1989-92) and was an assistant coach for the Hawkeyes from 1994-2001. UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez was also an Iowa assistant from 1979-86.

Prediction:

Wisconsin has faced three spread offenses in 2007 and has struggled against all of them. Thankfully, Iowa doesn't run anything close to a spread offense. The Hawkeyes run a Power I and happily will run the ball with seniors Young and Sims. Christensen's numbers against a poor Iowa State -118 passing yards and zero throwing scores – shows that Iowa's offense is in disarray.

Defensively, Iowa's front line is solid but beyond that, the Hawks are sketchy at best. Linebackers Klinkenborg and Humpal have been beaten on coverage and the secondary is passive-aggressive, usually staying deep in coverage, which allows for success underneath.

Bottom line is that Wisconsin, in front of a raucous Camp Randall crowd, is too much for the Hawkeyes. The Badger defense should get back on track because if UW can't stop this team offensively, any thought of a conference title would be a waste of time.

Final Score: Wisconsin 35, Iowa 17


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