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Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview and Prediction

Joel Stave

Joel Stave

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The Iowa Hawkeyes head into Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday in an attempt to end their three-game losing streak against the Badgers for the Heartland Trophy.

The Badgers are on a roll, having won three in a row in dominating fashion after losing their season-opener to Alabama. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, its quest to appear in a third straight Big Ten Championship Game took an unexpected turn with the announcement lead tailback Corey Clement will be out for at least another month with a sports hernia injury. 

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Iowa at Wisconsin

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network 

Odds: Wisconsin -9.5

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Three Things to Watch For

1. Badgers RB Taiwan Deal

Deal is coming off an impressive performance against Hawaii last week, rushing for 146 yards on 26 carries, scoring twice. Deal will surely be asked to carry a heavier workload now that it’s known Clement will be sidelined much longer than anticipated.

With a young and still relatively inexperienced offensive line, Deal's performance will be a key to Wisconsin's success offensively. If the inexperience along the offensive line shows early against Iowa, Both Deal and the Badgers could be in for a long day on the ground.

2. Hawkeyes QB C.J. Beathard

Beathard, while he won't set the world on fire as a passer, was very efficient in last week's win over North Texas, completing his first 15 passes of the game.

Wisconsin has a very talented secondary, but if Beathard can remain accurate and efficient early in the contest, he could have Iowa in prime position to take a surprising early lead on the road.

3. Wisconsin’s Offensive Line

Big Ten play is going to be a true test for this young and inexperienced Badgers offensive line. If Iowa’s defense is able to stifle Deal and the running game, it could force a heavier workload onto quarterback Joel Stave. Either way, Wisconsin’s front five will be key to the Badgers’ effectiveness on offense.

Final Analysis

Wisconsin is primed for a big year in 2015, and its defense is performing at a high level. The extended loss of Clement is a tough one to overcome, but the Badgers appear to have enough quality depth at key positions and should be able to survive capably until they get their top ball carrier back. This Big Ten West divisional clash with undefeated Iowa will serve as a good test of Wisconsin’s overall depth.

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Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Iowa 14

— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com and has written for other sites, including FanSided.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.