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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, December 06, 2021

Big Ten Bias: Q & A with an editor at The Daily Iowan

For each Big Ten game this season, The Daily Cardinal is reaching out to our campus counterparts around the league to get the lowdown on the Badgers’ opponents. This week we talked to Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor at The Daily Iowan.

DC: Wisconsin fans probably know Iowa’s record heading into this matchup. What’s the biggest Hawkeye story of the season that wouldn’t show up in a box score?

DI: It’ll be interesting to see how Iowa’s offensive line holds up against Wisconsin’s defensive line. Quarterback Nate Stanley’s passing protection has been shaky at times this season, and last year especially. Wisconsin sacked Stanley four times last year, and he, as well as the rest of the offense, could not get anything. 66 yards of offense was embarrassing.

DC: Iowa’s offense has scored one touchdown in its past three matchups with Wisconsin. Do the Hawkeyes have any new weapons or wrinkles that could lead them to more offensive success this time around?

DI: Offensively, Iowa has a three-headed monster in its backfield. Ivory Kelly-Martin, Toren Young and Mekhi Sargent all have different elements to their games — Kelly-Martin is elusive, Young is a power runner and Sargent is a combination of both. Under Kirk Ferentz, Iowa’s offense has (and forever will) start with the ground game.

While he played a big part in Iowa’s wins last season, Noah Fant didn’t record a catch against Wisconsin last season. Fant is the best tight end in college football: he’s too fast for linebackers and too big for defensive backs. Iowa needs to look his way early in the passing game much like how it did against Northern Iowa (5 receptions, 99 yards in the first quarter).

DC: Josey Jewell and Josh Jackson are gone to the NFL, who are the new guys to know on defense for the Hawkeyes?

DI: Iowa’s defensive line is arguably one of the best in the conference, and sophomore lineman A.J. Epenesa leads the charge. Epenesa leads Iowa with 4 sacks in three games, which ties for third nationally, and he’s a guy defensive coordinator Phil Parker loves to bring on passing situations — he’s a natural pass-rushing freak.

Also, listen for Nick Niemann’s name on Saturday. Niemann took over after his brother Ben graduated, and he’s locked down Iowa’s outside linebacker position. He is the only Hawkeye linebacker to start all of Iowa’s first three games in 2018. Niemann is Iowa’s fastest linebacker and possesses great football instincts.

DC: Nate Stanley surprised a lot of people outside of Iowa with his performance last year. How has his development progressed into his second season as a starter and is he in a position to take advantage of Wisconsin’s inexperienced secondary?

DI: Stanley has plenty to work on (his footwork is off at times and is notorious for staring down targets), but the junior signal caller has really improved on his deep-ball accuracy. Last season, we’d see Stanley’s passes sail far out of reach on long balls, but in 2018 that hasn’t been the case. He’s had some throws (like a 30-yard dime to Brandon Smith against Iowa State) that leave Hawkeye fans wondering where this accuracy was last season. If his receivers help him out (drops have been an issue so far) he should be able to capitalize and put up points through the air.

DC: Wisconsin’s players and coaches have stressed that this is just another game, even though the winner of this matchup has gone to the Big Ten Championship in every season since the conference went to the east-west format. What’s the attitude within the team from the Hawkeyes?

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DI: Iowa’s mindset is the same as Wisconsin’s — it’s just another game. Ferentz sees each week’s game as Iowa’s most important of the season, and the players do the same. It just so happens that this week, the Hawkeyes have, in my opinion, the most important game of the season.

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