1. Dominate the line of scrimmage
While Wisconsin and Iowa will both try to establish their passing attack, this rivalry will likely be decided at the line of scrimmage. Both teams boast some of the best — and biggest — offensive and defensive lines in the nation.
By controlling the line of scrimmage on offense, the Badgers can set the tone of the game. Continuously getting 5- or 6-yard runs with great line play will wear down and tire out Iowa’s defensive line.
Iowa, much like Wisconsin, uses its stout offensive line and run game to set up its passing game. If the Badgers can stop the Hawkeyes’ runs without committing and blitzing extra defenders, the Hawkeyes’ play action and deep passing games will be ineffective.
2. Slow the game down
The Badgers have to keep the crowd out of the game for as long as possible. In a nationally televised game and with the Hawkeyes looking for an upset, long possessions and big plays are crucial to minimizing Iowa’s home field advantage. Wisconsin can’t let Iowa build up a lead in the first quarter. A quick lead will give the Hawkeyes belief they can pull off the upset — especially after BYU’s performance last week. The Badgers need to get a stop on the first drive to silence the crowd and help the young players regain some confidence.
Offensively, the Badgers need to be in full control of the speed and tempo of the game. If Wisconsin can have long possessions, get quick three-and-outs on defense and play fundamentally sound, they’ll be tough to beat.
3. Test Iowa’s secondary early
Against BYU, the Badgers were simply too one-dimensional in the first half. The Cougars stacked the box and contained Wisconsin’s rushing attack — something few teams have been able to do in the past few years. Iowa will try do the same if the visitors don’t make a concerted effort to spread the Hawkeyes out early on with quick passes to the outside.
In addition, the Badgers have to take deep shots early on to force Iowa to adjust and bump their linebackers out into pass coverage, which will open up rushing lanes for running back Jonathan Taylor. Against Iowa’s elite defensive line, the Badgers can’t expect to get a 4- or 5-yard push every play like they have most of the season. The Hawkeyes are simply too strong and too well-coached. If the Badgers can’t rely on their typically dominant run game, big passing plays will be important for deflating both Iowa’s defense and the crowd.
1. Start fast
Unlike the Badgers, the Hawkeyes need to get the crowd into the game as quickly as possible. At maximum capacity, Kinnick Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in the nation.
A fast start by the Hawkeyes could cause doubt and panic for the Badgers after last week’s upset and the embarrassment that came with it. Wisconsin traditionally relies on being in almost complete control of the tempo to be successful, and if Iowa can force an early turnover deep in Wisconsin territory, it could tilt the field heavily.
The Badgers haven’t played a good first quarter all year, and if that trend continues, the Hawkeyes need to take advantage of it. The winner of this game has an inside track to the Big Ten West title, and after three straight defeats in the series, Iowa needs to seize this opportunity from the opening kickoff.
2. Make Wisconsin pass
The Badgers have shown in their first three games that they don’t want to throw unless they have to. The Hawkeyes should exploit this by stacking the box with seven or eight defenders and get the Badgers out of their comfort zone.
Likewise, Iowa’s defensive line has to hold its ground against the run. If the Hawkeyes can limit Jonathan Taylor to short gains on first and second down, it’ll be hard for Alex Hornibrook to air the ball out on obvious passing downs. When they get the Badgers into third-and-long, the Hawkeyes should stunt their defensive lineman and bring extra blitzers, an area the Badgers struggled against in their matchup with BYU. If Hornibrook is put under pressure on obvious passing plays, history shows he will turn the ball over eventually.
3. Smart play-calling
To win this game, Iowa has to outsmart the Badgers on offense. Much like how BYU confused the Badgers with their jet action, the Hawkeyes need to find a good mix of different run schemes and misdirection to make elite inside linebackers T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly hesitate.
If they establish the run early on — which their notoriously strong offensive line has a good shot at going against Wisconsin’s inexperienced defensive ends — the Badgers will have to sell out to stop the run, which will set up play-action and deep passing plays. Iowa did a great job of opening up their passing game with the run in their 38-14 win last week against Northern Iowa.
However, Iowa, much like Wisconsin, can’t become too reliant on power run schemes and simply grinding the visitors down. If the Hawkeyes can confuse the Badgers with different types of misdirection or shifts, they have the playmakers to have a big day offensively.