Iowa, No. 19 Wisconsin out to get head start in Big Ten West
MADISON, Wis. (AP) Tuneup time is over in the Big Ten.
If unbeaten Iowa wants to set the tone in the West Division, there is no better day to start than Saturday when the Hawkeyes visit No. 19 Wisconsin in the conference opener for both teams.
The Badgers are the defending division champion, but their hopes for another first-place finish have already taken a hit following the injury to starting tailback Corey Clement.
”If you are going to be a contender, you’re going to have to do well against them,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. ”We’re not going to let one game define the entire season, but it’s an important game.”
No need any longer to pour over scouting reports over unfamiliar nonconference teams. The Hawkeyes (4-0) and Badgers (3-1) will meet for the 89th time in the series. Games are usually close, and play is physical.
Back in the Big Ten in his first year as Wisconsin’s head coach, Paul Chryst doesn’t need extra time to brush up on the Hawkeyes. He has coached previously in the rivalry as the Badgers’ offensive coordinator, and played quarterback at Wisconsin as well.
”I think the one thing that jumps out is they’re always big games,” Chryst said. ”That’s what I like when you play against a team like Iowa. You’ve got to earn everything you get, and you’ve got to go win it.”
Wisconsin has won three straight in the series, meaning it also has also retained the Heartland Trophy that goes to the victors of one of the Big Ten’s trademark trophy games.
Other notes and things to watch ahead of the first game in the rivalry at Camp Randall Stadium since 2009:
CAN-DO CANZERI?: After wave after wave of great running backs at Wisconsin, the best back in Saturday’s game might actually play for Iowa. Senior Jordan Canzeri is second in the country with eight rushing touchdowns. He’s also on pace for 40 catches.
But the Hawkeyes haven’t faced a defense yet like the one they’ll see on the road in Madison. The Badgers have been dominant in nonconference play at home, having not allowed a touchdown in their last three games.
DARE DEAL: Wisconsin has turned its running game over to junior Dare Ogunbowale and redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal after the injury to Clement. The running game got off to a sluggish start, at least by Wisconsin standards, before erupting for 326 yards on the ground last week against Hawaii.
Iowa probably won’t be as generous. It is one of two schools, along with Navy, that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season. The Hawkeyes are yielding just 84 yards on the ground.
JUST FOR KICKS: Special teams can play a critical role in a series that has had close games. For Iowa, kicker Marshall Koehn has made 15 of his last 16 attempts, including a 57-yarder to beat Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
For the Badgers, Alex Erickson and Natrell Jamerson have had solid years so far as returners, and Wisconsin’s coverage units have improved after struggles last season.
BADGER BACKERS: Few outside linebacker tandems have had as productive a start to the season than Wisconsin’s Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel. Schobert is tied for the national lead in tackles for a loss (9 1/2) and is tied for fourth with six sacks. Biegel isn’t far behind with 5 1/2 tackles for a loss and 2 1/2 sacks.
”They just have a real good knack, and it’s not something that comes natural,” Ferentz said. ”So it starts with those guys. Blocking those guys is a big, big part of things.”
HEARTLAND TROPHY: The trophy has a depiction of a bull mounted on a walnut base inscribed with the scores of all previous games between the two schools. The Badgers are 5-4 since in the introduction of the trophy in 2009, though the series dates to 1946.
AP Sports Writer Luke Meredith in Iowa City, Iowa, contributed to this report.
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