No. 10 WISCONSIN (4-2, 1-2 in Big Ten) @ IOWA (5-2, 3-1 in Big Ten)
WHERE: Kinnick Stadium – Iowa City, IA
KICKOFF: Saturday, Noon p.m. ET on ESPN
LINE: Wisconsin +3.5
Two Big Ten rivals clash in the heartland on Saturday. Wisconsin has turned their season into a bit of a surprise with marquee victories and some impressive performances in losses to Michigan and Ohio State. The Badgers are on the next tier in the Big Ten and it starts with their impeccable defense. Paul Chryst’s squad ranks 9th in the nation in scoring defense, 9th in yardage given up, and 12th in rushing defense. T. J. Watt leads the Badgers defense, while WR Jazz Peavy adds an extra element to the offensive side of the ball. Peavy is an all-around player that Chryst likes to use not only in the passing game but in motion and running the ball as well. Look for both Watt and Peavy to be major players in Saturday’s bout.
Iowa, on the other hand, had a different season trajectory than Bucky. The Hawkeyes lost two games early in the season against FCS stalwart North Dakota State and Big Ten West opponent Northwestern, both at home. Kirk Ferentz’ team has struggled after winning double digit games in 2015 and reaching the Big Ten title game. Games against Rutgers, Minnesota, and Purdue were far closer than they should’ve been. The Hawkeyes will look to turn things around against their bitter rival to the Northeast.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes have seen some surprise performances, specifically in the run game. Early in the year, Iowa struggled to find a solid running game but have since relied on a surprise player: Junior RB Akrum Wadley. Wadley has already almost matched his entire 2015 output with 80 carries, 592 yards rushing, and eight rushing touchdowns. Senior Quarterback C. J. Beathard has been a bit of a disappointment so far in 2016 however. Beathard’s completion percentage, QBR, and yards-per-attempt are all down compared to 2015 and it will be increasingly difficult to right the proverbial ship against a vaunted Wisconsin defensive core.