October 23, 2010

Behind enemy lines: Iowa

As far as series go, it doesn't get any closer than the 42-41-2 split between Iowa and Wisconsin over the years. Later today, the Badgers and Hawkeyes will do battle in a critical conference match up.

Looking to learn more about the Hawkeyes, BadgerBlitz.com discussed the game with HawkeyeReport.com publisher Tom Kakert. The following is our ever popular Behind Enemy Lines feature.


1.) If you look at the film from Wisconsin's win over Ohio State, it became obvious early on that the Badger offensive line had the upper hand against the Buckeyes defensive line. Knowing Iowa's defensive line is one of the better, if not the best, in the league, how do you see them matching up with UW's offensive line?

Kakert: I didn't get to watch much of the Wisconsin game last weekend, but I think most people believe that Iowa's defensive line and Wisconsin's offensive line are among the best in the country this year. I think the game may come down to which line wins this battle.

Iowa's line isn't very big, especially when compared to what the Badgers have up front. But, I think one key for Iowa is the emergence of Mike Daniels at tackle, which gives Iowa five guys up front to work with. Given the size advantage, a fresh big body is pretty big for the Hawkeyes. I'm really looking forward to seeing Adrian Clayborn and Gabe Carimi go head to head. They are two of the best in the nation at their positions.

2.) Where does Iowa's run game stand? It seems Adam Robinson is off to a pretty solid start.

Kakert: Right now it is going pretty well with Adam Robinson as basically the only back who carries the ball. Iowa came into the season with sort of a three-headed monster of Robinson, Jewel Hampton, and Brandon Wegher at running back.

Wegher left camp early on and has not returned to the team. He is still in school, but not playing football due to personal issues. Hampton tore his ACL again against Arizona and is out for the season. Robinson is sort of the little engine that could. He isn't big. He isn't blazing fast. All he does is keep moving forward. One dimension that he has added to his game in recent weeks is catching the football out of the backfield.

3.) What have teams done in the past that has allowed them to get pressure on Ricky Stanzi? And in your mind, is that one of the keys to the game, whether or not UW is able to get a consistent rush on Stanzi?

Kakert: Iowa does a pretty good job of protecting Stanzi. The one exception was against Arizona, where he was sacked six times, three of those on consecutive plays late in the game when the Wildcats basically brought the blitz and Iowa didn't have an answer. If Stanzi gets time, he is tough to stop.

He's making better decisions this year with the football and has only two interceptions. One of those picks was off a tipped ball that Marvin McNutt probably should have caught. I think the best way for Wisconsin to get pressure is going to be through blitzing because Iowa does a nice job in pass protection and Stanzi is more mobile than people give him credit for being.

4.) In a broader sense, particularly in the way this game isn't guaranteed with the new divisional alignments, how do the fans view this rivalry and how do the players view this rivalry?

Kakert: My sense is Iowa fans are generally bummed out that this rivalry is going way for a couple of years. Iowa and Wisconsin are very close geographically and there is some history between the two schools with Barry Alverez being a former assistant at Iowa under Hayden Fry and now with Coach Bret Bielema and his obvious ties to the Hawkeye program.

The two schools are very much alike when it comes to how they play the game and it's been a great rivalry, especially with the addition of the Heartland Trophy in recent years. Add in that Iowa and Wisconsin have recruited some of the same guys over the years and my sense is the players really have enjoyed this game and it will be missed the next two years.

5.) Finally, how do you see this one playing out? Give us a prediction.

Kakert: I think this one will be close and it will be extremely physical. What this game will likely come down to is which team avoids the costly mistakes in terms of turnovers and special teams play. Iowa's coverage teams, much like Wisconsin's has not been great this season. Maybe one of the teams makes a big play there, like the Badgers did last weekend against Ohio State. Turnovers were huge last year, especially in the second half, which helped Iowa to get the win. I think being at home will help the Hawkeyes win a close one, 24-20.


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