football

All-Out Blitz: Iowa

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Welcome to BadgerBlitz.com's "All-Out Blitz,", where you'll find everything that you need to know about the Badgers' next opponent. The Badgers (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) are back on the road after their second bye week of the season, and will renew their rivalry with the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The game is scheduled to kick off at 11 a.m. CST, and will air on either ABC or ESPN2.
In the meantime, here's what you need to know about Iowa:
Head coach: Kirk Ferentz (15th season @ Iowa), 105-77 (61-54 Big Ten)
Iowa All-Time Record: 603-533-39 (.530)
2013 Record: 5-3 (2-2 Big Ten)
Ranking: NR (AP), NR (Coaches Poll)
All-Time record against Wisconsin: 42-42-3
Record against Wisconsin in Iowa City: 24-15-1
Season outlook
2012 was not an easy season for the Iowa Hawkeyes, who missed a bowl game for the first time since 2000 when they finished the season with a 4-8 overall record. Their best win of the season came in their first game, when they defeated eventual BCS Bowl participant Northern Illinois 18-17 at Soldier Field. It was downhill from there for the most part, with the Hawkeyes only beating Northern Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan State the rest of the way. It was enough for many outlets and fans to call for Kirk Ferentz's job, but Ferentz's substantial buyout kept him in Iowa City for at least another year.
This year
The Hawkeyes have improved as a whole on offense, but they're still leaving a lot of yards on the field. Iowa averages 397.6 offensive yards per game and just over 27 points per game, good enough for 9th and 11th in the Big Ten, respectively. Part of that two-spot drop-off is due to Iowa's struggles in the redzone. They're getting points out of just 74.19 percent of their redzone trips, and come away with touchdowns in just over half of their redzone chances.
Iowa's offensive limitations are due in part to breaking in a new starting quarterback. Jake Rudock has played well in his first season for the Hawkeyes, even if there have been some bumps along the way. He's completing 60.9 percent of his passes (6th in the Big Ten), has 12 touchdown passes (5th), and averages 6.9 yards per passing attempt (8th). Rudock doesn't get a lot of press for it, but he can hurt teams with his legs as well. His five rushing touchdowns this season are behind only Michigan's Devin Gardner, who leads the conference with 7.
But Rudock has struggled at times, which is to be expected for a first-year starter. Rudock has thrown 7 touchdowns to 5 interceptions during Big Ten play, and his completion percentage and average yards per attempt have ticked down in four Big Ten games.
Rudock's inexperience plays in to a limited but effective passing game. Wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley leads the team with 32 receptions, but only one other wide receiver has more than 10 catches this season. The Hawkeyes lean heavily on tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz on 3rd downs, but other than that Iowa's receiving corps is probably just a tad deeper than Wisconsin's.
The Hawkeyes do most of their offensive damage on the ground, where Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock do a lot of the heavy lifting. Weisman has the second-most carries in the Big Ten this season, behind only Michigan's Fitzgerald Touissant at about 18.6 carries per game. Weisman averages a relatively pedestrian 4.9 yards per carry, and only has three rushing touchdowns this season. The Hawkeyes are not a big play offense- they're going to grind out a lot of drives, and it'll be up to the Badgers to stop Iowa on third downs.
Defensively the Hawkeyes have been much more efficient. They're allowing just 19.3 points per game in Big Ten play, in large part thanks to playing well in their own redzone. The Hawkeyes actually allow teams to score 81.25 percent of the time in their redzone (7th in the Big Ten), but they've allowed just five redzone touchdowns in 16 total attempts (1st).
The Hawkeyes also do a pretty good job of limiting big plays from scrimmage, which is a big strength for Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes have allowed 23 plays of 20 or more yards this season (4th), whereas the Badgers have five rushing plays of 70 yards or more this season. One of those factors is going to give in the game, and the Badgers could be in for more of a dog fight if it's Iowa that gets its way.
Matchup to watch: Trench warfare
This is likely going to be a line of scrimmage game. Whichever team gets the biggest push on either side of the ball is going to have a much easier time of it in the game. The Badgers need to try and win on 1st and 2nd down to force the Hawkeyes into long attempts on 3rd down, putting more of an emphasis on Rudock's passing. On the flip side the Hawkeyes need to try and contain Melvin Gordon and James White, who are usually good for a few big rushing plays per game.
The pick: Wisconsin 31 Iowa 20
I tried to talk myself into this game being closer than some of my other factors are suggesting. In the end I think Iowa is a decent team, and better than they were a year ago on the offensive end. Playing at Kinnick is also tricky, especially considering how close the overall series between these two teams is at the moment. But in the end I just couldn't pick the Badgers to not cover a 10 point spread, even if it's on the road. It might not be as pretty as other games this season, but I think the Badgers offense is good enough to score on a stingy Hawkeye defense, which might be enough if Wisconsin's 3-4 defense can keep Iowa to modest yardage totals and get them off the field on third downs.
The point after:
Neither the Badgers or the Hawkeyes have held more than a two-game lead in their overall series since 2003, when the Hawkeyes cut Wisconsin's overall series lead to 39-38-2 with a 27-21 win in Madison.
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