Paul Chryst has talked regularly about responding to adversity and how each year and team are different than the last. In his first three seasons, Chryst’s teams showed a knack for bouncing back after a tough game or a debilitating injury. Following a stunning 24-21 loss to BYU last week, the fourth-year coach is about to find out how resilient this bunch can be. Will they come out with passion and energy that seemed to be lacking last week? Or will they just rollover and concede that all the preseason hype was misguided? If the Wisconsin we expected doesn’t show up Saturday, will it ever?
The Badgers are going to be walking into a hornets nest on Saturday night. Already one of the tougher places to play in the Big Ten, things get even louder when Iowa takes the field under the lights at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes beat #2 Michigan in 2016 at night and should have beaten #4 Penn State a year ago. Communication will be key for the Badgers, many of whom will be playing their first career road game.
In a decision that is still a bit surprising, Wisconsin replaced four of its five starters along the offensive line for a drive in the middle of the third quarter last week. It’s a line, you’ll remember, that was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and considered to be the best in the country. But it hasn’t played out that way and the group has not dominated like it should with the talent it has. The Badgers, though, will have a chance this week to prove it can still be an elite unit. Iowa’s defensive line has played lights out in the first three games and the Hawkeyes are allowing just 42 yards per game — the #2 mark in the country. Wisconsin must get the best the line has to offer if the offense is going to be effective on Saturday night.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley was coming off the best game of his career when the Hawkeyes came to Madison last November. The Menomonie, Wisconsin native had thrown five touchdowns in a huge upset of Ohio State the previous week and seemed to be hitting on all cylinders. It didn’t last, however, as the Badgers put together a defensive effort that ranks among the best in school history. Iowa had just 66 total yards, including 41 through the air. It was, by far, Stanley’s worst effort of his career. So which Stanley will show up on Saturday night? The one that lit up the Buckeyes or the one that laid an egg against Wisconsin?
The Badgers need the Alex Hornibrook of the Orange Bowl to show up and do so quickly. After a four touchdown, zero interception performance, everyone expected the junior quarterback to build on that and give Wisconsin a passing attack that could match its running game. So far, that hasn’t happened. Instead, things have looked disjointed at times. Certainly you can point to the suspensions of Quintez Cephus and Danny Davis, and the newness of tight end Jake Ferguson, for the early struggles, but that would be giving the passing attack a free pass. Wisconsin is too talented at the skill positions to not have more success than we’ve seen to this point.
Some numbers to consider here, between 1968 and 1997, Wisconsin had one win at Iowa. In the 20 years since, the Badgers have seven victories (7-3) at Kinnick Stadium.
Hornibrook threw three interceptions last year against Iowa, including two that were returned for touchdowns. Despite that, his passer rating of 127.4 was still 88 points higher than Stanley’s in that game.
The Badgers are 14-1 in true road games since Paul Chryst took over in 2015. The lone loss came at Michigan in 2016.
The UW Injury Report:
Zander Neuville and Andrew Van Ginkel are both listed as questionable for the Iowa game.
Luke Benzschawel, Griffin Grady, Kraig Howe, Mike Maskalunas, and Bradrick Shaw are all listed as out for the Iowa game.
As we all know, Garrett Rand, Blake Smithback and Mason Platter are all out for the season, while Quintez Cepheus remains suspended indefinitely and in my opinion likely won’t play this season.
The series: Wisconsin leads 46–43-2
The line: Wisconsin -3
The Badgers win a tight one in Iowa City to keep their damaged playoff hopes alive for another week.
Wisconsin 21, Iowa 20.