No. 18 Iowa, No. 13 Wisconsin poised for pivotal matchup
Field Level Mediaon
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst doesn't need a reminder about the strength of No. 18 Iowa's vaunted defensive line ahead of the teams' Saturday matchup at Madison, Wis.
The Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) have given up only 10.1 points per game, the lowest average during the 21-season tenure of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. The nine touchdowns the Hawkeyes have allowed during the 2019 season ranks in a tie for second in the nation with Penn State behind only Ohio State (six).
The Hawkeyes have the third-best rushing defense in the Big Ten, giving up only 87.8 rushing yards per game.
"They're getting a lot of production out of a lot of guys," Chryst said. "I think that's a sign of good players, good coaching, and knowing and understanding the scheme.
"It's a really good defense. I'm impressed with the players they've got there. I think they play well off each other. I think the strength of their defense is all 11 playing together. They don't give you stuff."
The No. 13 Badgers (6-2, 3-2) have lost two straight games, both on the road, and are fresh off a bye weekend. During Chyrst's five-season tenure, the Badgers have posted an 11-2 record after a loss.
A main focal point of the game will be whether the Hawkeyes can contain Wisconsin junior running back Jonathan Taylor, who leads the country with 19 touchdowns and ranks fifth in rushing at 126.1 yards per game.
Wisconsin has won three consecutive games over Iowa and six of the past seven.
In two games against the Hawkeyes, Taylor has 54 rushes for 270 yards but hasn't scored a touchdown.
The Badgers also hope to see a strong performance from junior quarterback Jack Coan, who has completed 74.5 percent of his passes, which ranks third in the nation. Coan has thrown 10 touchdown passes this season, but he was 10-for-17 for 108 yards and one score in the Badgers' 38-7 setback to the Buckeyes on Oct. 26.
Iowa senior quarterback Nate Stanley, a native of Menomonie, Wis., has logged 34 consecutive starts. He paces all Big Ten quarterbacks in passing yards (1,950) and passing yards per game (243.8). Stanley has 10 touchdown passes on the season.
The Hawkeyes have won two straight, and they also had a bye last weekend. They pitched a shutout against Northwestern, 20-0, on Oct. 26.
November is a critical month for the Badgers and Hawkeyes, who currently sit two games behind No. 17 Minnesota in the Big Ten West standings. Iowa hosts the Gophers next week, and Wisconsin and Minnesota play against each other in the regular-season finale in Minneapolis on Nov. 30.
Ferentz said he has respect for the long tradition of success that Wisconsin has established throughout the years. He knows the Hawkeyes will have their hands full with Taylor, but he also has been impressed with Badgers sophomore tight end Jake Ferguson.
"If you look at our conference, Ohio State has led the conference in wins, and Wisconsin has been a solid No. 2 right behind them," Ferentz said.
"Going back to the '80s, they've always been strong up front. They have a good offensive line, big, physical guys that do a good job. They're good at the receiver position and deep at the receiver position, Got a really good tight end that they find frequently, and makes a lot of look plays for them."