The No. 24 Wisconsin football team returns to action this week against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The game will kick off Saturday at 12 p.m. ET on ABC.
Wisconsin is coming off of their second of two bye weeks this year. The Badgers’ first bye week came after a tough loss on the road to Ohio State. They responded by walloping Northwestern at home, 35-6.
Recent history shows that UW knows how to use a bye week for full preparation. According to ESPN.com, the Badgers have won six consecutive games following a bye week.
Iowa is a respectable 5-3 this season, but their record belies their ability. Each of the three losses were decided in the fourth quarter. In the Hawkeyes’ opener, Iowa blew a fourth quarter lead and fell, 30-27, to a Northern Illinois squad that remains undefeated and is currently ranked No. 17 in the BCS standings.
Against Michigan State on Oct. 5, Iowa held a 14-10 lead at halftime but would not score in the second half, ultimately losing 26-14. Two weeks later, the Hawkeyes went on the road to Ohio State and played impressively. They held a halftime lead and were tied going into the fourth quarter, but did not have enough to pull off the major upset.
Iowa sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock may be the key to Iowa’s success. In each of the team’s three losses this season, Rudock posted a completion percentage under 60 percent. His completion rate has been 60 percent or higher in all of Iowa’s wins. He has occasionally showed an ability to run the football as well, with five rushing touchdowns on the year. However, he has not had one in over a month.
Wisconsin and Iowa have had an extensive history. Since the first meeting took place in 1894, the two programs are all squared away in the series, 42-42-2. To commemorate the rivalry, the Heartland Trophy was created in 2004 and awarded annually to the winner of the game through 2010. However, when the Big Ten realigned after the addition of Nebraska, the game was put on hiatus. Starting next season, the Big Ten will realign again with the additions of Rutgers and Maryland. Iowa and Wisconsin will both be placed in the same division, and the rivalry will commence once again.
The last time these two teams met, fans saw a thriller as the Badgers went on the road and defeated the Hawkeyes, 31-30, after Montee Ball punched in a touchdown with just over a minute remaining. Though records may indicate that Wisconsin is in line for a big victory, this one could see a close finish once again.