1. Moving the Chains
Wisconsin's offensive troubles have been well documented. With a possible change at QB, injuries to Gabe Carimi and Kraig Urbik, limited wide receivers, and banged up tight ends, it bears asking whether the Badger offense can move the ball consistently against anyone. On Saturday, they face a defense in Iowa that leads the Big Ten in PPG allowed (10.9) and which has not given up more than 22 points to anyone this season. Now granted, their non-conference schedule was light to those numbers may be a little inflated, but Indiana, Michigan State, and Northwestern all have credible offenses and Iowa controlled all of them.
2. Mitch King vs. Interior of the Badger line
King has been a thorn in the Badgers side for many years. He has continued his excellent play and he may be going up against an O-line interior without its best player in Kraig Urbik. With the Badgers relying almost solely on an interior running game, they must neutralize King, something they have not found a way to do consistently.
3. Lack of Pressure
Wisconsin ranks last in the Big Ten with just 9 sacks, most of which have been coverage sacks. On the bright side, Iowa's pass protection has been inconsistent at times (ranking 10th in the Big Ten), so this could be an opportunity to get some heat on Ricky Stanzi. Wisconsin's pass defense numbers have been respectable given the lack of pressure, but I don't believe that will hold up if they don't improve in this area.
4. Shonn Greene vs. Badger Size (or lack thereof)
Greene is a punishing runner and it will be interesting to see how Wisconsin's smallish defense holds up against him. Wisconsin held their own against Penn State's ground game (despite everything else that went wrong), but it could be argued that Greene is more physical. This one may come down to snaps. If Iowa can stay on the field and start accumulating snaps, Greene's fourth quarter performance could be telling.
5. Ricky Stanzi vs. Alltin Scheridge
Iowa went back and forth with their quarterback situation earlier in the year before Stanzi.emerged, generally playing well (64% completion rate). Now, the Badgers may be playing a little bit of quarterback roulette. With two unstable situations (especially Wisconsin) at such a key position, it has to be listed as a key to watch.
I am of the belief that this Badger team still has the potential to play some good football. However, their margin of error is not great. They have not played consistently all year long and if they don't start soon, things could get ugly. I expect this to be your typical Wisconsin-Iowa slugfest. The series stands at 41-40 with a few ties, advantage Wisconsin, and that is pretty indicative of where we stand. I expect a defensive game that is decided by a couple big plays/turnovers. With Iowa being at home and coming off of a solid win, I give the edge to the Hawkeyes, 20-17..