As part of Gameday VI, Seamus Rohrer lays out the three keys to a Wisconsin victory at No. 16 Iowa this Saturday.
One: Win in the trenches
Hawkeyes’ head coach Kirk Ferentz’s brand of football for 23 years has been gritty and physical. Iowa, similar to Wisconsin, is considered an offensive line factory. In the 2020 NFL draft, Hawkeye’s tackle Tristan Wirfs was picked No. 13 overall. Who’s next? Left Tackle Alaric Jackson is a hulking, punishing run blocker who is widely considered one of the top prospects in the upcoming pro draft, regardless of position.
On the other side of the ball, Iowa’s D-line is also loaded with playmakers. They consistently set the tone for the Hawkeye defense with their physical dominance, but also schematically by utilizing stunts, shifts, and motions at the line of scrimmage. Wisconsin will have to face the one that got away in Daviyon Nixon, a beast of a defensive tackle from Kenosha, who was never offered by the Badgers. He has absolutely stuffed the stat sheet this year, clocking in 44 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and has a forced fumble and a pick-six.
Two: Contain Iowa’s speedy playmakers
While Iowa is traditionally an old-school, power football team, these Hawkeyes can flat out fly. Iowa’s skill positions on offense are loaded with breakaway speed, and they utilize screens and reverses to maximize their physical gifts. Sophomore tailback Tyler Goodson has incredible burst, and flashes receiving savvy out of the backfield.
While Goodson leads the Hawkeyes in rushing yards, his backfield mate Mekhi Sergent paces the team in yards-per-carry (6.0) and touchdowns (7). On the perimeter, wideouts Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Tyrone Tracey Jr. are both talented playmakers with blazing speed. The former, Marsette, is a versatile swiss army knife getting NFL attention even in a stacked wide receiver class. The badgers must tackle well and play with good fundamentals to stifle Iowa’s speedy skill positions.
Three: Pressure Spencer Petras
The Hawkeye offense is led by California kid Spencer Petras, who at the start of the season replaced three-year starter Nate Stanley. He may be feeling the pressure of replacing Iowa’s second all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, and Wisconsin would be wise to pressure him in-game. Petras has a nice touch for a first year starter but inconsistent vision and decision making, and the Hawkeyes’ passing game is designed around these traits.
Offensively, Iowa uses a heavy dose of play-action. When set up well, these play fakes generate more open receivers, simplifying Petras’ reads. They also scheme Iowa’s scorching receivers into open space, which sets up easy tosses resulting in lots of yards after the catch. If the badgers pass rushers are able to disrupt Iowa’s offensive line and give Petras less time to throw, Iowa may have to resort to a drop-back passing game that doesn’t play into Petras’ strengths.