We have one month left to go in the NCAAF regular season. The Big Ten West crown is among the many things that will be decided in the coming weeks, but not before all of those in the hunt get the opportunity to settle it on the field.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are ranked 18th in the latest AP Top 25 poll and bring a record of 6-2 to the table. They’ll be on the road to take on the Wisconsin Badgers, a program which is ranked 16th with a matching record of 6-2.
The two squads are tied with conference marks of 3-2. That leaves them tied for second place in the Big Ten West, behind undefeated division leader Minnesota. Both teams will get a crack at the Golden Gophers before the season is through, but a win here will make it much more meaningful when it happens.
Iowa’s two losses have come to fellow ranked Big Ten teams, one at home and one on the road. Wisconsin opened up the season like a ball of fire with six straight wins, but they have dropped two straight. The first was of the upset variety to Illinois, while the second came to Ohio State.
These two rivals have a lot of history between them, and the stakes are high for this tilt. Let’s take a detailed look at the matchup, starting with the way the college betting sites see it.
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Betting odds provided by Sportsbetting.ag
Iowa vs. Wisconsin Pick:
Iowa had last weekend off after winning two straight. Last time out, they took a trip to Northwestern as 8-point favorites. That would prove to be a good call as the Hawkeyes dominated the game. The team didn’t do much on offense, but they had little trouble walking away with a 20-0 win. The defense put the clamps down and allowed just 202 total yards of offense in the rout.
Wisconsin also had the week off, but they entered the bye in different fashion. One week after being stunned in a 1-point road loss to Illinois, the team traveled to Ohio State as 15-point underdogs. The Buckeyes got out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and never looked back, rolling to a 38-7 victory. The Badgers managed just 191 yards of offense in the defeat.
The Hawkeyes opened up the season strong with four straight wins, a span which included a 1-point road win over Iowa State. The fun came to an end with a 7-point road loss to Michigan. The week after, it was a 5-point home defeat to Penn State. That dropped the record to 4-2, but Iowa has bounced back with consecutive victories over Purdue and Northwestern.
The Badgers kicked off 2019 looking like one of the most dominant teams in the nation. The team won its first six in a row and racked up four shutouts while doing so. Among the victories over that span was a 35-14 home win over Michigan and a 38-0 home victory over Michigan State. Illinois snapped the streak with a stunning 24-23 home win, and Wisconsin was rolled over by Ohio State last time out.
Iowa is a low-scoring squad which has only posted 30 points or more three times this season. However, they do a good job of holding opponents in check, so they don’t need to be lights out on offense. The defense is the clear strength of the team, allowing an average of just 10.1 points per contest. Iowa has only allowed one opponent to reach 20 points this season.
Nate Stanley has been efficient but unspectacular behind center. To date, he has thrown for 10 TDs versus five INTs. Mekhi Sargent leads the way out of the backfield with a line of 98/443/4. Ihmir Smith-Marsette is the team’s leading receiver at 30/463/3. Kristian Welch is the team’s leading tackler at 47, while A.J. Espensa leads with 3.5 sacks.
Wisconsin brings more to the table on offense, but production has been muted the past couple of weeks after a hot start. Over the six-game winning streak, the Badgers scored 35 points or more five times. For the last two games, the team has scored a total of 30 points. The defense has come back to earth after racking up four shutouts in the early going, allowing a total of 62 points over the last two.
Jack Coan is having a solid season, but the Badgers offense is geared towards the run. Coan has 12 total scores versus two picks thus far. Jonathan Taylor has been a monster out of the backfield at 177/1,009/15. Quintez Cephus paces the pass catchers at 27/410/3. Jack Sanborn tops the defense with 46 tackles, while Zack Baun is tops with 7.5 sacks.
Wisconsin holds the all-time series lead over Iowa by a margin of 47-43-2. They’ve won the last three in a row over the Hawkeyes as well. Last season, it was a 28-17 road win for the Badgers.
For the season to date, Iowa is 3-5 against the spread and 1-6-1 on the Over/Under. Wisconsin is 5-3 ATS and 2-6 on totals.
Since the 2016 season, the Hawkeyes are 1-7 both straight-up and ATS as road underdogs. The Badgers are 22-2 overall as home favorites over that span and 11-12-1 ATS.
The Hawkeyes have suffered two close losses to ranked teams on the year. The Badgers opened up the season looking like serious contenders, but two straight losses have changed perspective.
The hosts are big favorites here, and they have had control of the series between the two teams in recent years. However, they’ve settled down after a sizzling start to the year. Meanwhile, Iowa has bounced back from its setbacks with two straight wins.
This should be an entertaining battle between two clubs who are very much alive in the chase for the Big Ten West. Iowa plus the points is the call as they should keep it closer than expected.