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Wisconsin Badgers at Iowa Hawkeyes: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications

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When: Sat. Oct. 22; noon ET
Where: Iowa City, Iowa; Kinnick Stadium (70,5851)
TV: ESPN
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 44-43-2
Last Meeting: Iowa Win; 10-6 (2015)
Line: Wisconsin (-3.5)

High-flying offense meet one of the toughest defenses in the Big Ten. It may feel like deja vu as the Wisconsin Badgers and Iowa Hawkeyes clash for the 11th time over the Heartland Trophy and for the 90th time in a series that dates all the way back to 1894.

Let’s just say crazy things can happen when these two teams get together. Last season was certainly no different as both defenses created turnovers and harassed the opposing offenses like crazy. Yet, it all ended in a 10-6 victory for the eventual Big Ten West division champions known as the Iowa Hawkeyes.

It’s safe to say these two teams don’t care much for each other, and outside of the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe there may not be a more important or heated rivalry in the Big Ten West division.

So, strap yourselves up for a likely entertaining and crazy matchup between the last two West division winners.

 

1 Burning Question: Can Wisconsin Build Off Impressive Rushing Performance Against Ohio State?

Badgers fans have been waiting long and (im)patiently to see a solid and capable running game to return to Camp Randall. It just so happened that the return of a healthy Corey Clement and the hyped nature of the matchup with Ohio State allowed that to happen last weekend.

Clement tied a career high with 164 yards rushing, but was held out of the end zone in the overtime loss to Ohio State. As a team, the Badgers put up 236 yards on the ground against a defense that came in allowing an average of just 96 yards per game.

The 236 yards were also the most by a Badgers team in Big Ten play since putting up 256 yards on Minnesota to end the season last year and the second-most of the 2016 season after an explosion against a really bad Akron defense in Week 2 of the season.

Can the Badgers sustain or build on the level of success it had on the ground against Ohio State in this road test? If Wisconsin wants chances to win games with a still-learning quarterback like Alex Hornibrook, it needs to be a threat on the ground.

Teams can’t pin their ears back and attack the passing game if they are getting gashed on the ground. Let’s see if the Badgers can continue to find a solid running game this week.

2 Key Stats:

— 5. That is the number of wins for both Iowa and Wisconsin since the introduction of the Heartland Trophy to this series. So, that means this is the rubber match, and after an Iowa win in Camp Randall last season, you can bet the Badgers want some revenge at Kinnick. However, that may be easier said than done, as Wisconsin owns just an 18-24-1 record in games played at Kinnick in this series.

— 11. Wisconsin has won 11 of the last 12 trophy games against West division rivals. That one loss? It came last season to the Iowa Hawkeyes of course. So, expect this game to mean a lot to both teams. After all, the Badgers clearly aren’t used to not having a full trophy case at Camp Randall.  Luckily for the Badgers, they also own a three-game winning streak at Kinnick Stadium, part of that 11 wins in 12 games streak.

3 Key Players:

Vince Biegel, Wisconsin LB: It may seem strange to have Biegel on this list given the performances of players like Garret Dooley and Zack Baun while he was out, but Biegel is the leader of the 2016 Badgers defense. Having him back on the field for this game is huge, and you can bet his will and determination will rub off on the rest of the team. Oh, and he happens to be a pretty electric weapon for Justin Wilcox to have on the field. Look for him to be a tell-tale sign of how things go in this game.

Akrum Wadley, Iowa RB: Wisconsin’s defense has been one of the hardest to gain yards on in the Big Ten, especially on the ground. However, they have been susceptible to the big play and that is where Wadley comes in to play. He is third in the Big Ten with 592 yards rushing, but most importantly he is a game-buster. Wadley averages over 7.4 yards per carry on the season and has busted five runs of 20-plus yards to go with 18 of 10 or more yards. He needs to give the Badgers a reason to back off defensively, and busting loose a few times early on would be good.

Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin RG: There wasn’t a single player on the Badgers offensive line that had as bad of a game as Benzschawel did. He made Nick Bosa look like Joey Bosa and he also couldn’t handle Sam Hubbard. The lack of strong play made UW a one-dimensional run game almost exclusively running up the middle or left of the line. Simply put, he has to play better if the Badgers want to continue to open up the playbook and make teams deal with multiple play locations out of the same looks. If UW can’t trust him to block well, it could be another long day for the Badgers offense.

4 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Wisconsin 35-14
Dave: Wisconsin 24-17
Phil H.: Wisconsin 24-20
Philip R-R: Wisconsin 24-21

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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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