The B1G season started to wind down against Nebraska in week 12, but the biggest test of the season will come down to Iowa. The fans are closer than most, and Melvin Gordon is none too happy about that. I always think Iowa is our true bane of the football season.
Week 13, November 22: At Iowa
It was a big 28-9 win last season which included a two touchdown performance by both James White and Joel Stave. Brad Nortman played hero when he converted a fake punt in Iowa City in the Badgers 31-30 victory in 2010. Side Story: I was working in a Hy-Vee during the game and may have taken an extra 30 minutes on my break.
But two wins in four years doesn’t quite quell the uneasy feeling. Wisconsin lost to Iowa 20-10 in 2009 and 38-16 in 2008 after a pair of 3-point wins in the two years before. Short story, this one has the high probability of being both a barn burner and a nail biter.
Iowa’s linebacker corps will be depleted this year, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of options. Both Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey were taken in the top 120 picks of this year’s NFL Draft, which leaves Quinton Alston to take up the middle linebacker spot. Alston was the constant backup, so he should be able to handle the in-game plays, but we’ll have to wait and see how his decision making forms by November. Even the likes of Stave should be able to pick apart Alston with some action over the middle.
A linebacker group with knowledge, but lacking in game time should also mean our set of tight ends will have the advantage in the run blocking scheme. Iowa uses a 4-3, leaving just man coverage on tight ends should a linebacker blitz. One problem will be this: there is no solid receiving tight end outside of Sam Arneson, which is a big stretch.
The Badgers tight ends will each be about 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, a couple inches and 15 pounds heavier than the average Hawkeyes outside linebacker. This will be great for moving the ground game forward, but potentially hazardous dropping back into protection when Wisconsin is unsure about the hands of its guys in the box.
Jake Rudock will now have a whole season to himself under center, with a whole season of average play under is belt. Rudock threw 13 interceptions last year, but will also have a big bruising running back in Mark Weisman to give the Hawkeyes offense balance. Weisman is Toby Gerhart-like in his punishment of arm-tackling corners and OLBs. Marcus Trotter is just as big, however momentum favors Wesiman.
Home Field Advantage
Sadly, Gordon is right. I don’t like Kinnick Stadium. I don’t like the way it looks. I don’t like whenever the Badgers play there, no matter what the outcome has been. As a college student in Iowa (Drake University), I understood the allure of Iowa City, but could not get why the football stadium was so cut up.
The dimensions work in the Hawkeyes favor, however, because the only Wisconsin fans that will be able to make a sound will be so far back only the tailgaters in the parking lot will be able to hear them.
Join us next time when the Badgers play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the greatest trophy in all of football.