The 2021 college football season may not have gone quite according to plan in the Big Ten West Division this season, but this weekend's showdown between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Wisconsin Badgers is still one of the most important games of the year. Iowa's upset loss to Purdue two weeks ago re-opened the door to a potential division crown for Wisconsin, who can jump right into the driver's seat with a win at home this weekend in Madison.
No. 9 Iowa at Wisconsin
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 12 p.m.
Spread: Wisconsin -3.5
When Iowa Has the Ball
Wisconsin's defense should manage to keep Iowa from doing too much damage. In what should be a common theme in this game, the key to success will be forcing the opposing quarterback to make a play. For the Badgers, that will mean putting the game on the arm of Spencer Petras, who was picked off four times in Iowa's last game against Purdue.
The Badgers also do not give up many yards in total, and Wisconsin owns the Big Ten's top rushing defense (53.3 ypg). The Hawkeyes' rushing offense also is lagging, ranking near the bottom of the conference (116.6 ypg, 12th), with Tyler Goodson leading the way. After averaging 5.3 yards per carry last season, he's at 4.3 through seven games with five touchdowns on the ground.
When Wisconsin Has the Ball
Same story, different uniform! Like Iowa, Wisconsin will prefer to keep the fate of the game in the hands of the running backs instead of quarterback Graham Mertz. The Badgers have chosen to rely less and less on their quarterback, and that may be working out just fine. Wisconsin ranks 13th in the Big Ten in passing offense with a conference-low three touchdowns and nine interceptions. And considering the Hawkeyes lead the country with 16 picks (by nine different players), it would be wise to just let the running game do its thing.
Iowa's rushing defense has fared well too, ranking third in the Big Ten at 89.9 yards allowed per game. Chez Mellusi is leading the Badgers with 692 rushing yards, but he's averaging only five yards per carry, and the team has 14 touchdowns on the ground, a far cry from the level of production we've become accustomed to.
Iowa and Wisconsin are strikingly similar in every area of this game, which makes for quite a Big Ten rock fight this weekend in Camp Randall Stadium. The stakes are high as well with an inside track to the Big Ten West Division on the line. But expect the Badgers to have their fans jumping around in celebration at the end of this one.
Prediction: Wisconsin 20, Iowa 16
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