Homecoming is here for the University of Wisconsin football team, which will take on Iowa on Saturday.
It’s the Badgers’ first trophy game of the season — the other two coming against Minnesota and Nebraska — and they’ll hope to return the Heartland Trophy to Madison. Iowa earned possession of the bronze bull trophy last season when it beat UW 28-7 in Iowa City.
UW (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten Conferene) is unranked for the first time in its last 10 meetings with the Hawkeyes. Iowa (6-1, 3-1) is ranked ninth in the AP Top 25, yet the Badgers enter the game as a 3½-point favorite.
Here are five things to know about the Hawkeyes.
Battle for Big Ten West
Saturday’s winner at Camp Randall Stadium will control its own destiny for the Big Ten West Division title.
If UW beats Iowa, the teams will be tied with two losses, but the Badgers will hold the head-to-head advantage.
Iowa lost to Purdue on Oct. 9, and the Badgers beat the Boilermakers last week. Purdue wide receiver David Bell had 240 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches to help the Boilermakers defeat then-No. 2 Iowa 24-7 on Oct. 16. He had six catches for 33 yards on 10 targets against the Badgers.
The Badgers’ focus on Bell left Purdue’s tight ends open underneath, which allowed them to be more active than usual. UW likely won’t be able to do that against Iowa because junior tight end Sam LaPorta is the team’s leading receiver with 28 receptions for 332 yards and two touchdowns.
Iowa leads the country in interceptions (16) and takeaways (21) and ranks third in turnover margin (+15). Nine players have at least one interception.
Moss leads the Big Ten with four interceptions and is tied for second in the nation.
The Hawkeyes have turned 21 turnovers by their opponents into 78 points. Iowa’s defense has scored 20 points.
The Badgers rank 128th — and worst in the Big Ten — with eight lost fumbles and nine interceptions. Auarterback Graham Mertz has thrown seven of the interceptions.
Same side of coin
Both teams have a similar mentality, relying on the running game and strong defenses.
Iowa ranks second in the Big Ten and is tied for third in the nation in scoring defense. The Hawkeyes rank fourth in the Big Ten and 13th in the country in total defense, while their rushing defense ranks third in the Big Ten and seventh nationally.
Linebacker Jack Campbell has 67 tackles. The Hawkeyes will be without senior cornerback Riley Moss, who injured his left knee while celebrating his fourth interception of the season during the victory over Penn State.
Usage of fullbacks
Both teams also utilize a fullback, which isn’t common at the FBS level. The only other Big Ten school that uses a fullback is Michigan, but the Wolvernes don’t utilize the position nearly as much as Iowa and UW.
Junior Monte Pottebaum is the Hawkeyes’ starting fullback, whose focus is on blocking for running backs Tyler Goodson and Ivory Kelly-Martin. Pottebaum has rushed for only 45 yards on 10 carries.
Both teams are known for their running game. UW averages 218.9 yards on the ground, ranking 19th in the nation.
Iowa typically runs the ball more than it passes, ranking 103rd with 116.6 rushing yards per game. Goodson leads the Hawkeyes’ rushing attack with 586 yards on 136 attempts. His five rushing touchdowns rank seventh in the Big Ten. He rushed 22 times for a career-high 153 yards and a career-high three touchdowns against Kent State in September.
Behing quarterback Spencer Petras, the Hawkeyes’ passing offense ranks 100th in the nation with 194.3 yards per game.