Key B1G West showdown to kick off conference play
Who: Iowa vs. No. 19 Wisconsin
When: Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
Where: Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin
Spread: Wisconsin -7
Matchup to watch: C.J. Beathard vs. Wisconsin LB’s
The Iowa quarterback has made some impressive plays with his ability to improvise out of the pocket. He hasn’t, however, come face-to-face with a linebacking core like Wisconsin’s. The likes of Vince Biegel, Chris Orr, T.J. Edwards and Joe Schobert have been as solid a group as any so far. Their job will be simple — prevent Beathard from doing what he does best. On the flip side, the Badgers have been so dominant the last three weeks without facing a true dual threat quarterback. Their mobility will be tested as well. It’ll be interesting to see how many designed runs Beathard gets to try and loosen up the Badger defense. The more they can stretch the field, the better.
Thing I’m excited to see: The first real jump around
If you ask me what the coolest tradition in college sports is, I’ll give you one answer. It’s Jump Around. I’ll never forget sitting in the Camp Randall Stadium press box and watching it shake. And amazingly, that was in the midst of a game in which Wisconsin beat Indiana 83-20. I was told it’s even better when it isn’t a rainy blowout. The Madison forecast for Saturday is 50’s and sunny, and if non-conference play was any indication, this one should be a four-quarter battle. No disrespect to Hawaii, Miami (OH) and Troy, but B1G play creates an even better atmosphere in one of the nation’s top venues. If and when this one is close going into the fourth quarter, we’ll all be treated to the best version of the best tradition in college sports.
Number to remember: 0
That’s the number of touchdowns Wisconsin allowed in its last three weeks. Again, weaker competition helped that stat, but it’s still impressive. Jordan Canzeri will not score touchdowns at will like he did against North Texas. Beathard will not be perfect for an entire half against a Badger defense allowing 4.79 yards per play. In Camp Randall, you can’t leave points on the board. Iowa’s improved red zone offense — currently at a 94-percent conversion rate — needs to continue to finish drives. Getting red-zone target Jake Duzey back to full strength would be a major boost for Beathard.
Prediction: Wisconsin 21, Iowa 20
Let me clear the air. I’m a believer in Iowa. I don’t think the 37.8 points per game the Hawkeyes are putting up are a fluke. I think if and when LeShun Daniels returns to form, Iowa will have one of the better 1-2 rushing tandems in the country. But I always come back to one constant. You don’t go into Camp Randall and steal a win. The Badgers either demolish their guests, or find a way to devastate them in the fourth quarter. I’ll go with the latter. I think Taiwan Deal follows up his breakout game with two more scores — one of which to take the lead in the fourth quarter — and gives Wisconsin its first quality win of the season.