Wisconsin-Iowa: Badgers Hope To Bounce Back Against Tough Hawkeye Team

Jeff RobbinsContributor IOctober 15, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 10:  Quarterback Scott Tolzien #16 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs with the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Who: Iowa Hawkeyes @ Wisconsin Badgers.

Where: Camp Randall Stadium, ESPN.

When:  Saturday, October 17, 11 AM CST.


If you like television—and really, don’t you believe those people with the “Kill Your Television” license plates are scary crazy?—you should check out a book called The Last Great Ride by the late NBC president Brandon Tartikoff.

The Last Great Ride is full of great stories about the TV industry, but one of the best concerns the casting of the sitcom Family Ties .

Tartikoff was unimpressed by Michael J. Fox and tried to talk the producers out of casting the then-unknown Canadian actor as Alex P. Keaton.

“This is not the kind of face you’ll ever see on a lunch box,” Tartikoff protested. Of course, after Back to the Future became a monster hit, Fox’s mug did indeed appear on lunch boxes, one of which he sent to Tartikoff.

With the box, Fox included this note: “This is for you to put your crow in.” 

Well, after the Buckeyes beat the Badgers by 18 points after I had loudly and vehemently protested that game’s 16-point spread, my readers informed me it was my turn to eat crow.

“Mike” sarcastically wrote: “Jeff, you were right. It was 18 points, not 16. The oddsmakers sure got that one wrong. Defenses are just too strong for the O line of Wissyconsin.”

Well, Mike, yes. I was wrong. (Although I did pick Ohio State to win.) But here’s my argument: If Wisconsin and Ohio State were to line up and play every Saturday for the rest of the season, I strongly doubt that any meeting is that lopsided again. No team can count on three non-offensive touchdowns every week.

To my last point, “Kyle” wrote, “It doesn’t matter how a TD is scored — it’s 6 points either way. If those two INTs and the KO return did not go for TDs, that’s three offensive possessions for OSU where they have an opportunity to score an offensive TD, like they did right before the end of the first half with extreme prejudice.”

Kyle seems to think that OSU could have and would have scored more on offense had they had the ball more. Because of defensive and special teams scoring, OSU only ran 40 offensive plays, just three in the third quarter. But that’s simply ignoring how inept OSU’s offense, and Terrelle Pryor in particular, were throughout that game.

Take out the one drive at the end of the first half, and OSU’s offensive drives netted totals of 9, 11, 4, 0, 7, 60 (field goal), minus-3, and minus-1 yards. Those are numbers that would make Cleveland Browns fans wince.

Mike was right about one thing though: Wisconsin’s offensive line—which announcer Matt “31-84″ Millen regrettably gushed about during the pregame—was beyond lousy, as they failed to open any running lanes for John Clay and, much worse, allowed six sacks.

Watching Tolzien take a beating on Saturday certainly gave many fans unwanted flashbacks to last Monday night’s Packers/Vikings game, when Rodgers hit the turf eight times.

The good news for the Packers is they get Detroit and Cleveland next. The bad news for the Badgers is they get Iowa.

You know Iowa—the only unbeaten team in the Big Ten.

Iowa, the team that’s won 10 games in a row dating back to last season.

Iowa, the team that’s beaten Wisconsin in five of its last seven meetings, including a 38-16 beatdown last year.

But despite their unblemished 6-0 record, not everything is perfect with Kirk Ferentz’s team. How else could you explain the fact that the Hawkeyes narrowly escaped getting beaten by a downtrodden Arkansas State team just two weeks ago?

Wisconsin needs this game. While their upcoming schedule is soft enough to prevent a repeat of last year’s long losing streak, they need to beat Iowa if they want to once again be considered anywhere near the elite teams in the Big Ten.

Here are the Channel 3000 three storylines to Saturday’s homecoming battle for the Heartland Trophy:


1. Get Down On The Ground

Even though quarterback Scott Tolzien had his worst day as a starter against Ohio State, he only looked truly befuddled twice—his throw that was intercepted by Kurt Coleman in the first quarter for a pick-six, and his futile attempt to get a high five from someone, anyone after the Badgers’ successful fake field goal went for a touchdown in the second quarter.

(I smell a new catch phrase here, namely, the use of “Tolziened” instead of “snubbed.” Try this out: You’re waiting to buy a drink. The bartender keeps passing you up to serve attractive women. You turn to your friends and say, “I’m getting totally Tolziened here!” Yeah, I know Tolzien was the one that got snubbed. He wasn’t doing the snubbing. But come on, don’t ruin my brand-new catchphrase with your Vulcan-like logic.)

Despite Tolzien’s not-that-bad day, look for Bret Bielema and Paul Chryst to make things easier on their QB this Saturday by pounding the football with John Clay.

That should give the Badgers the best chance for success on offense. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in rushing, while only one Big Ten team gives up more yards per rushing attempt than Iowa.


2. Flip the Script

Last week both of Scott Tolzien’s interceptions were returned for touchdowns. This week at quarterback the Badgers face Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi, who has already thrown eight interceptions, three of which Iowa’s opponents have returned for touchdowns.

The Badgers have nine interceptions on the season but, like showboating 49ers cornerback Dre Bly, have yet to take one to the house.

In what looks to be a game dominated by defense—Iowa is third in the conference in defense but a lowly ninth in scoring—the Badgers would love to do to Iowa what Ohio State did to them last week and score with their offense on the sidelines.


3. Battle of the Tight Ends

Anyone who plays fantasy football knows the increased role tight ends are playing in both college and professional football this year. (They also know not to start, under any circumstances, anyone who plays for the Oakland Raiders.)

Iowa and Wisconsin have two of the best tight ends in the country—Wisconsin’s Garrett Graham ranks third in the country among tight ends in receptions and fourth in yards.

Meanwhile, since returning from an ankle injury, Iowa’s Tony Moeaki is hotter than Blake Lively in a backless dress. In only three games he has 17 receptions for 192 yards and three touchdowns.

Tolzien and Stanzi rely on Graham and Moeaki for their success as much as John Oates relies on his partnership with Daryl Hall to pay his mortgage. Whichever tight end is best able to make plays on Saturday may be enough to make the difference.


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