By Brendan Stiles
To get you all ready for Saturday’s game between Iowa and No. 22 Wisconsin, I put together a list of things you ought to know before these two face off at Kinnick Stadium.
At the end, I’ll provide what I think are three keys to an Iowa victory.
Iowa Hawkeyes (5-3, 2-2) vs. No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers (5-2, 3-1)
Kinnick Stadium; Iowa City, Iowa
Nov. 2, 2013
11 a.m. Central
TV: ABC/ESPN2 (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake)
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network (Gary Dolphin, Ed Podolak, Rob Brooks)
Brendan’s Three Keys to the Game:
1. Pass rush
This is obviously a lot easier said than done given the size of Wisconsin’s offensive line, but simply put, the front four has to put together a competent pass rush and force Badger quarterback Joel Stave to make decisions with the football off balance. If he gets time in the pocket, especially on play-action, he’s an accurate enough quarterback that players like wide receiver Jared Abbrederis can then make big plays against a secondary that has been suspect against big plays pretty much all season. It’s asking a lot, but it has to be done if Iowa’s going to pull an upset here.
2. Use the middle of the field
Specifically with the ground game, Iowa’s best chance to move the ball against Wisconsin’s front just might be going right at the heart of it. Yes, Chris Borland is the Badgers’ best defensive player and one of the best linebackers in the entire country. He has also been hobbled by an injured hamstring that has limited him in practice this week. If he plays, go right at him with heavy doses of Mark Weisman. If he doesn’t play, go at his replacement and test him. Because the Hawkeyes aren’t used to facing 3-4 defenses on the regular, some of those stretch plays to the outside might not really work here because Wisconsin’s going to have the ability to over-pursue.
3. Martin-Manley, Smith and …
If Iowa has any success moving the football against Wisconsin on Saturday, it will be the result of someone the Badgers aren’t anticipating to make big plays doing just that. The Hawkeyes’ tight ends are a known commodity, as is Kevonte Martin-Manley and possibly even Tevaun Smith as the No. 2 wideout. But pick a name from this group — Damond Powell, Jacob Hillyer, Matt VandeBerg, Don Shumpert, Jordan Cotton, Riley McCarron. Any one of these guys could wind up being the ultimate difference in whether or not Iowa can sustain lengthy drives, move the chains and keep the ball away from the Badgers’ offensive skill players. Whether it’s a big third-down reception or catching a deep ball in a crucial situation, a third wide receiver stepping up is going to be necessary for the Hawkeyes this Saturday.