No. 16 Iowa hosts Wisconsin, aiming for 6th straight win
Considering how well Iowa is playing, there’s a good chance it can end some extended struggles against rival Wisconsin.
The host No. 16 Hawkeyes look to conclude this condensed and unique regular season with a sixth consecutive victory, which would also halt a four-game slide against the struggling Badgers on Saturday in Iowa City, Iowa.
Iowa (5-2, 5-2 Big Ten) is certainly kicking itself by thinking back to the first two weeks of this season when it lost to Purdue and Northwestern by a combined five points. That 21-20 loss to the Wildcats on Halloween is essentially what will keep the Hawkeyes out of the Big Ten title game.
Still, Iowa is looking to head into the bowl season on a roll after outscoring the last five opponents 186-76 during its longest winning streak since starting 12-0 in 2015. The Hawkeyes, which moved up three spots in the College Football Playoff rankings, fell behind 14-0 early in the second quarter at Illinois last weekend before scoring 35 straight points en route to a 35-21 win.
“Our slow start was a team effort,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
“Sometimes defensively it takes time to get a feel for the game and how things are going.
“The best thing that happened was our players kept playing. The coaches kept coaching and things started getting better.”
The Hawkeyes’ offense, paced by running back Tyler Goodson (107.2 average rushing yards and five touchdowns in the last five games) and quarterback Spencer Petras (six touchdown passes, two interceptions in last five games), has averaged 37.2 points during the five-game run. However, it could be the Iowa defense, which has not allowed more than 24 points in any game this season, that could be the X-factor in this rivalry contest.
The Hawkeyes have dropped four in a row and seven of the last eight against Wisconsin, which is no longer ranked in the CFP after losing to then-No. 12 Indiana last week.
“We’re playing a team that is a border rival, and we have had great games with them,” Ferentz added. “We haven’t come out on the right end enough — that’s for sure.”
That said, the Badgers (2-2, 2-2 Big Ten) have struggled while totaling 13 points in consecutive losses to Northwestern and Indiana after scoring 94 in wins over Illinois and Michigan. Wisconsin, which has been banged up and hindered by COVID-19 issues inside and outside the program, managed only a pair of Collin Larsh field goals in last weekend’s 14-6 loss to then-No. 12 Indiana.
“You’ve got to play good football to give yourself a chance to be a good football team,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst said. “If you’re not doing that, you make it harder.
“We’ve had two games now where we didn’t score a lot of points. Two games before we scored a lot of points. I don’t know that I’ve got the answer for you right now on that.”
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz, who had a bout with COVID-19 earlier this season, threw seven touchdowns without an interception in those first two games, but has just one score with four picks in the last two. The Badgers have also totaled 276 rushing yards and averaged 3.7 per carry in their two losses.
Still, Wisconsin boasts one of the nation’s top defenses, giving up 49 points on the season and an average of 52.7 rushing yards in the last three games.
–Field Level Media