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10 Things to know about Wisconsin Badgers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Wisconsin and Iowa get together for the Heartland Trophy and for the 91st time all-time. Here are 10 things to know about the game on Saturday.

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There are few games bigger in the Big Ten West division, literally and figuratively, than the Iowa Hawkeyes and Wisconsin Badgers. Simply put, it seems as if the division winner goes through winning that game.

With Iowa coming off a monumental upset of Ohio State last weekend and the Badgers sitting 9-0 on the season, once again this game has plenty of meaning. Not only is the Heartland Trophy on the line, but so too are the hopes of a West division title for both teams.

We’ll get in to that and more as we dive deep in to the Badgers vs. Hawkeyes matchup at Camp Randall Stadium this Saturday afternoon.

 

1: This is Wisconsin’s magic number for the Big Ten West division title 

The scenario is easy: Wisconsin wins, it wins the West division title on Saturday and Badgers fans can count on their hotel reservations in Indianapolis meaning something once again. With Northwestern the only team within striking distance of the Badgers and already with two losses (including one to the Badgers) a win coupled with just two games left in the regular season would clinch the division for UW for the third time in four years.

2: Wisconsin is second in the Big Ten in rush defense this season

That stat line may not be all that shocking, considering how good we have seen Wisconsin’s defense play all season. But, after giving up just 40 yards on the ground last weekend to Indiana, Wisconsin’s per-game average of 87.7 puts them just .7 yards per game behind league-leading Michigan State. Iowa comes in to this game with just eight rushing touchdowns, the second-worst rushing TD mark in the conference, and are 10th in rushing offense (143.2) on the year.

3: That is the number of Big Ten West divisions titles won between the Hawkeyes and Badgers

Yes, it has been only three years since the East-West division split for the Big Ten, but you can count on the winner of this game likely winning the division. No other team has won it outside of Iowa or Wisconsin, with the Badgers winning twice and Iowa once. However, neither have gone on to win the Big Ten championship.

4: Iowa’s defense is 4th in the Big Ten in scoring defense (18.1 points per game)

Just how good have Big Ten defenses been this season? Iowa’s 18.1 points per game average sits No. 16 in the nation heading in to this week but is just the fourth-best mark in the conference. Wisconsin’s offense is averaging a healthy 36.1 points per game, but Iowa’s defense has had a good time holding opponents down. Just how good are they in doing that? 8 of the last 9 opponents have been held under their season average.

5: Wisconsin senior DE Alec James has put up 5.5 sacks this season

While he isn’t getting a ton of publicity, he is having one of the most productive seasons for a Badgers defensive lineman in nearly a decade. His current total sits just behind J.J. Watt’s 2011 total of 7.5 sacks for the best in the last seven years. With three games to go there is a good chance for James to beat that mark. That’s especially true considering 3.5 of his sacks have come in the last two weeks combined. Iowa’s offensive line has had issues dealing with pressure most of this season, so James could have a good chance to get on the board once again this weekend.

6: Wisconsin has won six of the last 11 games in this series

Why is this even significant? Well, this Saturday will be the 12th time the Badgers and Hawkeyes have met for an official trophy game and the Badgers own the Heartland Trophy edge with a 6-5 record in the 11 games played for the brass bull since its introduction in 2004. Iowa owned Wisconsin in the first two games once the trophy was introduced, but the Badgers own the longest win streak in the trophy game at just three (2010-2014). The two have traded wins since then, can the Badgers buck the trend?

7: A win on Friday would mean 7-straight for the Badgers in the Rusty Toolbox game

The what? Yes, while there is a trophy on the line on Saturday afternoon, the managers of these two teams play an equally heated one the day before this game. Iowa leads the all-time series 11-10, but the Badgers have a chance to even things up and make it 7-straight over the Hawkeyes managers with a win in this flag football contest. The game first started in 1991, but has been played every year the two teams have gotten together since 1995.

8: 8 of 11 opponent drives to start in UW territory have ended in no touchdowns

One of Wisconsin’s biggest strengths on defense this season has been its ability to not buckle under pressure. In fact, they seem to thrive on it, like as in the fact that just 3 of 11 drives that have started in UW territory have ended in a touchdown. That includes a Maryland drive that started at the Badgers 5-yard line a few weeks ago. Given Iowa’s ability to create turnovers, this could be a huge help to Wisconsin’s efforts on Saturday afternoon.

9: UW’s 9-0 start puts them in rare territory this season

The Badgers are just one of five teams with an undefeated record heading in to the final three weeks of the season. Alabama, Georgia, Miami (FL) and UCF are the only other unbeaten teams in FBS football. But, the Badgers win streak isn’t just sitting at nine games, it’s been 12 straight wins in Big Ten regular season play and that is the best win streak in B1G play by any Badgers team ever. With a win on Saturday, the Badgers would also have a third-straight 10-win season under head coach Paul Chryst, with the Badgers already owning 30 wins in the Chryst era. Let’s just say this bunch knows how to win and win often.

10: That is the number of receiving touchdowns for Iowa’s tight ends in 2017

Want to know the secret to Iowa’s offense? Look no further than the guys who are the edges of the offensive line, because they’ve been instrumental in just about anything Iowa has done this season. Noah Fant (So.) and T.J. Hockenson (redshirt freshman) have combined for 42 receptions this season. Of those 42 receptions, all but five have resulted in a touchdown (10) or first down (27). Fant’s seven TDs are a single-season school record for a tight end.

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What the Badgers need to work on in the bye week

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Two games, two victories, two shutouts and two record-setting performance. It would be easy to think the 2-0 Wisconsin Badgers football team is riding high in to its early bye week.

But, with the challenge of the Michigan Wolverines just around the corner things are not exactly going to go as planned.

So, with a week off to prepare what are some of the areas of concentration and concern heading in to the matchup with the Wolverines?

Get Healthy

I feel like this is a mantra of any team on a bye week, but after only two games it shouldn’t be that bad. But, guess what, Wisconsin is two games in to the season and the injury gods have not been kind to this team.

On Sunday, we learned that starting safety Scott Nelson will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.

Late last week we knew that five other players were going to miss the Central Michigan game, with two of those being starters on defense in Bryson Williams and Izayah Green-May.

Now luckily, the depth of this team showed up as true freshman Keeanu Benton (1 TFL) played well in place of Williams and Noah Burks (2 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass break up) made it seem like there was nothing missing at outside linebacker.

But, there’s no question that playing with a full group of players against Michigan will be advantageous. Let’s see if the Badgers can get Williams and Green-May healthy and my guess is that they will be able to do just that with nearly three weeks of treatment and testing.

Stay Hungry

One of the things that has been clear so far about this team is that they have been playing with a lot of emotion and edge to them. It’s almost as if they spent an entire offseason stewing over a less-than-stellar performance in 2018 and are bound and determined to not let that happen again.

Whatever was bottled up in the offseason was certainly unleashed in the first two weeks of the season. Can UW find a way to continue to play with that edge and fire now that they have no game this week?

Sometimes the bye week can mess with a team, especially one that is rolling like the Badgers are. But, I have a distinct feeling that motivation and focus are not going to waver at all with this coaching staff in place.

Wisconsin also has the advantage of being the underdog in the matchup with Michigan (at least on paper it will) and has a ton of hungry young players looking to make a name for themselves.

What better way to do that than against Michigan with the whole college football world watching you?

This idea of staying hungry doesn’t worry me in the least, but it would be something to watch coming out of the gate against Michigan. If the Badgers look flat or out of sorts, I’d be worried. If not, then look for Michigan to be in some serious trouble on Sept. 21.

New Wrinkles?

Early on this season, we’ve already seen a lot of Jonathan Taylor the running back, but we’ve also seen a lot of JT23 the receiving back and it has produced glorious results.

Even better is the fact that the Badgers coaching staff hasn’t had to get exotic with the play calling early on this season either. There’s been few sightings of Aron Cruickshank end arounds or double running back sets or anything crazy.

Wisconsin has lined up, punched the opposing defense in the mouth up front and done the basics needed to put points on the board.

It will be interesting to see what wrinkles will be added with the extra time and the opponent at hand. Will the Badgers break out a few things that Michigan won’t be ready for or will they stick to the tried and true and just see what happens?

Pass Protection

If there’s one thing we know about Michigan’s defense is that it is nearly the Badgers equal in aggressiveness. Through two games the Badgers have allowed four sacks on the quarterback.

It may not seem alarming, but last season, UW allowed a total of 24 through 13 games for an average of 1.85 per game and that was a bit of a problem in bigger games. Furthermore, 12 of the 24 sacks came in Wisconsin’s five losses last year.

The good news seems to be that UW is going to get some help for the quarterback spot in avoiding some of those sacks this year. Jack Coan may not be a world-record sprinter, but he has shown to be more comfortable stepping up in the pocket and taking off if needed.

But, the Badgers were not really tested so far in terms of overall talent and did give up three sacks against USF in the opener. On the flip side, the offensive line looked much better against CMU and only one sack happened on the day.

Does that indicate improvement or just how bad the Chippewas were? With an extra week to work on things, lets see how the Badgers offensive line works through any potential issues and any adjustments that may be needed.

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Sunday Morning Hangover: What to make of Coan’s confident start

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By now, Jack Coan isn’t a total newcomer to the starting quarterback role for the Wisconsin Badgers. But, on Saturday he was making his first career start inside Camp Randall Stadium.

All five of his previous starts would come on the road or in a bowl game.

So, how did Coan handle the home crowd and it being a season opener at Camp Randall nonetheless? Judging by his record-setting numbers it was safe to say it was home, sweet home for the junior quarterback.

After passing for over 200 yards for the first time in his career last week against USF, Coan set personal records for passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes in a single game.

It’s hard to get much better than that.

On the day, Coan would go 26 of 33 for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers were the catalyst to the Badgers 61-0 blanking of the visiting Central Michigan Chippewas.

His 363 yards were the fifth best in a single game by any Badgers quarterback. Coan also became just the 11th Badgers QB to throw for 300 or more yards in a game.

Additionally, his 276 yards in the first half were the most ever by any Badgers quarterback in a single half.

That’s some historic territory for anyone to reach.

However, after sleeping on it, I am still left wondering if this is a sign of things to come or a blip on the radar and we’ll never see this again.

Maybe it’s because I can still remember being there in person to witness Coan fumble and bumble his way to a loss at Northwestern last year.

Maybe that’s the Hornibrook affect in me too? After all, we got totally burned by thinking Hornibrook had turned a corner with his great performance in the bowl win over Miami two years ago.

Instead, Hornibrook reverted right back to the inconsistent and at times terrible version that his more extensive body of work told us was likely who he was.

But, here’s why I think we aren’t seeing a blip on the radar with Coan. It’s his confidence and the fact that we’ve seen him go out and do better each and every week he’s been a starter.

We are seeing progress, which we never really did with Hornibrook under center. If you can’t see that Coan is improving, then you aren’t paying attention.

Last week, despite the first ever 200-yard day for Coan, a lot of attention was paid to the missed wide open receivers on vertical routes. What did Coan do about it? He went out this week and showed he could confidently and accurately hit those deep balls.

“I think it’s important, and certainly we’ve got to be able to — we thought coming into the year we’ve got to do a better job of attacking the whole field, and so when you can do that, it’s good, but I think guys have had confidence in it,” said head coach Paul Chryst after the CMU win.

“I know last week we were 0-2 for those “chunk” plays, but he wouldn’t have cut ’em loose today if he didn’t have confidence in it. So I don’t know that doing it in a game makes you more confident, but it was good to see. It’s nice to be able to hit a couple of those, obviously.”

Additionally, Coan’s relationship early on this season with Quintez Cephus has been something special to watch. With virtually no playing time and no extensive practice time together, the duo has seemed totally in sync to start the season.

Cephus has nine receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns through two games. He also is averaging 84.5 yards per game, good for fifth in the Big Ten in this early season.

Just to put the difference between Coan and Honribrook in to some perspective for you. Through two games last year, the Badgers had just 26 receptions as a team. This year, UW already has 50.

Wisconsin also has a total of 16 passes for 15 or more yards on the season. That is a quarter of what the Badgers had (64) all of last year and we’re only two games in to the season.

A.J. Taylor (8), Danny Davis (6), Kendric Pryor (6) and Jake Ferguson (6) have all had major impacts in the pass game too.

It means a diverse and talented group is producing quickly this season.

Of course, the challenge of Michigan’s defense awaits the Badgers offense and it certainly will be a step up in competition from the likes of USF and Central Michigan.

However, the Wolverines also won’t be seeing the same old Wisconsin offense they did for the past few years either.

What Coan has brought to the table through two weeks of play should make Michigan think twice about stacking the box against the run all game long.

Wisconsin finally has an outwardly confident quarterback and it feels so very good.

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WATCH: Recap of Badgers 61-0 victory over Central Michigan

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If you were to draw up a perfect game, well, it would be hard to top what the Wisconsin Badgers put on film on Saturday against the Central Michigan Chippewas.

UW ran, passed and dominated on defense en route to a 61-0 win. What should we take away from this game? What were the highlight moments?

Well of course, Jonathan Taylor scoring four touchdowns in back-to-back games was impressive. But, let our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, get in to the detail in this week’s talkinBadgers recap.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube page, so you don’t miss any of our video work as the season goes on!

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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Central Michigan Chippewas: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications

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We’re back with more in our video work for the Badgers 2019 season. As per usual, our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, is here to give you the lowdown on the matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Central Michigan Chippewas.

That means, key players to watch, key stats to keep an eye on and the weekly prediction.

He is 1-0 after nearly nailing the full score last week, so what does this matchup look like?

Let’s get in to the video.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel so you don’t miss a single prediction or post-game reaction for your pleasure.

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