Although the defense has fared very well without outside linebacker Vince Biegel, it was still pretty clear that the Wisconsin Badgers missed his presence in overtime against Ohio State. I’m not saying this is solely because of Biegel, but Wisconsin is 4-0 with him and 0-2 without him (it might matter more who the opponents are).
With a big match-up against Iowa coming up, and likely the deciding game on if the Badgers will still get a chance at redemption in the Big Ten Championship, Biegel’s presence is more important than ever. Iowa is not anywhere close to where Michigan and Ohio State are offensively, and they aren’t as good as the Badgers defensively. It should be a low-scoring game, which is just what the Badgers like.
Iowa has had sort of a “mixed bag” of results this season, one with which they were expected to (probably) be undefeated at this point. Yet, they are undefeated on the road, and .500 at home. Their road wins include a low-scoring win over Minnesota, a high-scoring win over Purdue, and a certain victory over Rutgers. Their home losses include defending FCS champion North Dakota State, which isn’t a bad team but shouldn’t happen regardless, and a loss to a since-resurfaced Northwestern team. At this point in the season, a reeling Wisconsin is still the best opponent Iowa has faced so far, and the schedule doesn’t get easier. Iowa needs this win as well.
On offense, Iowa still has some pieces despite the loss of star receiver Matt VandeBerg. Iowa has a duo in the backfield of Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr., and they both have at least 586 yards and 6 touchdowns a piece. Quarterback C.J. Beathard hasn’t had the great season people expected, but he has been more than serviceable and has put together a nice season as well. Wideout Riley McCarron is now the leading receiver in Iowa, and he leads the team in receptions (24), yards (289) and touchdowns (3). Tight end George Kittle isn’t far behind in any of those categories either. In other words, Iowa has some nice pieces on offense, and although they aren’t stars, they still are capable of putting up points. However, this Badgers’ defense has only allowed one game of more than 17 points, and Michigan, Michigan State and LSU all put up 14 or less. Expect Iowa to be in that ballpark.
Iowa also has the defensive pieces to be able to maintain Wisconsin’s offense on Saturday. They shouldn’t be able to throw the ball that well, as cornerback Desmond King is one of the best corners in the NCAA. Cornerback Greg Mabin isn’t bad either, as he is also projected to be drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Badgers will need the running game again if they have any plans of throwing against Iowa, and outside of defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, there isn’t a ton of experienced, front seven talent for the Hawkeyes. This defense isn’t as good as Michigan’s, so the Badgers should be able to put up enough offense to win the game.
I don’t like the Badgers getting more than one touchdown, but I think they are going to be able to move the ball enough to get a few field goals Saturday. The Badgers also have enough experience controlling the explosive offenses of Michigan and Ohio State, and the talent that LSU and Michigan State are supposed to have. Iowa’s offense has less overall talent, and therefore the Badgers should be able to hold them to 14 or less. I’ll say 13 here. Badgers win by a field goal, with a final score of: Wisconsin 16, Iowa 13.
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