Wisconsin’s easy path to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game became a lot more interesting when No. 20 Iowa stepped up last week and declared itself a contender. The eighth-ranked Badgers will try to avoid an upset and keep their path clear when they host the surging Hawkeyes on Saturday.
Iowa scored the biggest upset of the Big Ten slate thus far when it ripped Ohio State 55-24 last week, recording a season high in points after totaling 27 points in its previous two games. “If we could draw up the way we wanted it to look, that pretty much was it,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz told hawkeyesports.com. “The guys did a good job, there was good run-pass balance. I think we were a yard apart on run total (243) and pass total (244). More importantly, we were able to run and pass efficiently and work together -- I was happy to see that. We were hoping we would see that execution over the last four or five weeks and we finally broke through.” That offense will try to maintain that balance against a Wisconsin squad that enters the weekend tied for fourth in FBS in scoring defense, allowing an average of 13.3 points. The undefeated Badgers are the only Big Ten team without at least two losses and will lock up the Big Ten West with a win on Saturday, but they still haven’t impressed the College Football Playoff committee enough to jump into the top four in the rankings.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC, LINE: Wisconsin -12.5
ABOUT IOWA (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten): The Hawkeyes’ offense was set up last week by its defense, led by defensive back Josh Jackson. The junior tied a school record with three interceptions and was named the Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. “He knocked it out of the park,” Ferentz told hawkeyesports.com of Jackson. “You can see the maturation of guys sometimes, and Josh has taken a step with every year he has been here. He played good football for us the last two years, now he is a starter and has played well all season. It’s almost impossible to have three interceptions in one game and all three of them were spectacular plays.”
ABOUT WISCONSIN (9-0, 6-0): The Badgers are led by freshman running back Jonathan Taylor, who bounced back from an ankle injury suffered in a 24-10 win at Illinois on Oct. 28 by barreling for 183 yards on 29 carries in last week’s 45-17 victory at Indiana. Taylor will be leaned on even more this week after it was announced that wide receiver Quintez Cephus, who leads the team with 501 yards and six TD receptions, will sit out Saturday’s contest after suffering a right leg injury against Illinois. Senior tight end Troy Fumagalli is second on the team with 401 receiving yards and three TD catches but has not seen the end zone since Week 3 at BYU.
1. Wisconsin LB Chris Orr (left leg) is out for Saturday while S D‘Cota Dixon (right leg) is questionable.
2. Iowa S Brandon Snyder is out for the rest of the season after suffering his second ACL tear of 2017.
3. The Badgers took four of the last five meetings, including a 17-9 win at the Hawkeyes last season.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 38, Iowa 21