Battle of the Bull: Wisconsin vs. Iowa

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Battle of the Bull: Wisconsin vs. Iowa
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

After two weeks on the road, the Wisconsin Badgers are back in Madison preparing for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Coming off a disappointing loss to Ohio State in which Wisconsin statistically outplayed the Buckeyes in every facet of the game, the Badgers are hungry for a win against their border rivals.

This game is important for many reasons.

First, and most importantly, this is a huge game in the Big Ten.

Iowa is 6-0 and Wisconsin is 5-1. Whoever wins this game is in prime position to win the Big Ten.

Assuming they went undefeated the rest of the way, Iowa would only have to beat Ohio State on Nov. 14, and they would be headed to the Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin would need a little help from the Buckeyes, but would still have a chance at a BCS bowl if they finished the season with only one loss.

This game will also show whether or not the Badgers are capable of bouncing back from a loss.

If you look at the numbers, Wisconsin should have beat Ohio State. However, mistakes killed any chance they had. Any team that gives up touchdowns on two interception returns and a kickoff return is going to lose 99 percent of the time.

Coming off their first loss of the year, Wisconsin has to regroup quickly if they are to going to have any shot against Iowa.

Oh, it's also Homecoming for Wisconsin, the all-time series is tied at 41 apiece, and the brass bull known as the Heartland Trophy is at stake.

So yes, this game is a big deal.

Here are a few keys to the game for Wisconsin:

1. Protect Scott Tolzien

After allowing only two sacks in the first five games, Ohio State dominated Wisconsin's offensive line last Saturday, sacking Scott Tolzien six times. This constant pressure led to poor decision-making from Tolzien and may have been the key in the Badgers' loss.

For the Badger offense to stay in sync, Tolzien needs to have time. Although Wisconsin isn't known for its passing offense, their success this year has come in large part because of Tolzien's ability to move the ball through the air.

2. Get the running game back on track

Wisconsin's bread and butter is their rushing attack. It looked more like their brusselsprouts last Saturday.

John Clay, who had been averaging 116 yards on the ground, was held to 59 yards on 20 carries. As a whole, the Badgers rushed for only 118 yards—with 36 of them coming on David Gilreath reverses.

Wisconsin's offense hinges on their running game, and if they can't get that going, don't expect Tolzien to make up for it. Luckily for the Badgers, the Hawkeyes are giving 134 yards on the ground.

3. Keep the defensive momentum

All year, Wisconsin has been hounded for their defensive ineptitude. Last Saturday, the defense played by far their best game of the year.

The Badgers' D allowed only 184 total yards and 10 points to the Buckeyes and would love to carry that performance into this Saturday's game.

For its part, Iowa is averaging 26 points a game, but Ricky Stanzi has been one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the nation. Stanzi has 10 touchdowns, but has already racked up eight interceptions. The Badgers will need to take advantage of this if they hope to pull out a victory.

4. Fix the kickoff coverage

Two weeks in a row, Wisconsin has had awful kickoff coverage. Against Minnesota, the Badgers gave up multiple long kickoff returns and last week gave up a 96-yarder to the Buckeyes' Ray Small.

This simply needs to stop. This defense can use all the help it can get and giving up field position is not something the Badgers can afford.

Saturday's game will be the second game in a row in which the Badgers will need to play their absolute best if they want to win.

That said, if Wisconsin can learn from their mistakes against Ohio State and play the way they did the first five weeks of the year, they should be holding up a brass bull at the end of the day.

Prediction: Wisconsin 21, Iowa 17

 

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