Last chance to impress for Iowa
Fresh off of keeping Floyd of Rosedale in Iowa City after dispatching the Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-3 Big Ten, 9-3 overall) 40-22, the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-3 Big Ten, 8-3 overall) come swooping into Madison this Saturday.
Currently, the Hawkeyes are ranked No. 17 in the AP poll and have strung together an impressive campaign that has seen highs and lows. At the peak of the Hawkeye season was their dismissing of any notion of a Michigan national title hope, as they beat the perennially powerful Wolverines for the second time in as many years by a score of 30-27. At the low end of the season were defeats at the hands of Ohio State (19-10), Purdue (27-14) and Michigan State (20-10).
Iowa brings a balanced squad into Madison that will be determined to create a winning streak over the Badgers (4-3 Big Ten, 7-4 overall), having defeated Barry Alvarez and company 20-3 in Iowa City last year for the first time since 1995.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes are led by senior running back Fred Russell. Russell has had a stellar senior campaign, rushing 243 times for 1,068 yards, averaging 97.1 yards per game. Russell is second in rushing in the Big Ten.
Senior quarterback Nathan Chandler has had a ho-hum year, completing 144 of 257 passes for 1,804 yards and eight interceptions. Chandler's mediocrity could be the result of the absence of two huge receiving targets. Senior wide receiver Maurice Brown (48 receptions for 966 yards and 11 TDs in 2002) has seen limited playing time this year due to injuries, and 2002 All-Big Ten tight end Dallas Clark moved on to the Indianapolis Colts.
Senior Ramon Ochoa has filled in admirably for Brown, accumulating 457 yards on 31 catches and five touchdowns. Ochoa is the utility man for the Hawkeyes, as his 437 yards and one touchdown on punt returns place him fourth in the Big Ten. Ochoa also returns kickoffs for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in creating turnovers when their opponents are in the red zone, leading some to believe that the Iowa defense is clutch. Iowa is anchored by two of the Big Ten's most prolific linebackers in Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway. The sophomore duo of Hodge and Greenway are numbers one and two, respectively, in tackles in the Big Ten, combining for 236 stops. Senior strong safety Bob Sanders has forced six fumbles, which tops the Big Ten. The D-line is anchored by junior end Matt Roth, who is second in the league in sacks, has forced four fumbles and has 14 tackles for a loss.
\Defensively they've been good all year. It's a very good defense,"" said Wisconsin Head Coach Barry Alvarez on the Hawkeye defense.
Turnovers have been a key contributor to the Hawkeyes' losses this year. In the loss against Michigan State in the Hawkeyes' Big Ten opener, they turned the ball over four times. Against the Buckeyes, they coughed up three balls to the defending champs en route to a 19-10 loss. Iowa hotly contested Ohio State's dominance of the Big Ten in the 2002 season, though never playing them.
""Anybody has trouble winning in this league if you turn the ball over several times,"" Alvarez said.
Standings in the Big Ten will also be decided by the game between UW and the Hawkeyes. Iowa, along with Wisconsin and Michigan State, is in a logjam at fourth place. If either team were to win this Saturday, along with Purdue and Michigan State suffering unlikely losses to Indiana and Penn State, respectively, the Badgers or Hawkeyes (depending on who wins) could find themselves tied for third place with Minnesota and Purdue.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter