Iowa football hosts the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday, which is statistically the best defense in college football.
The Iowa Hawkeyes offense will face a tough task this weekend when they welcome the Wisconsin Badgers to Kinnick Stadium. With the way both defenses are playing this season, points will be at a premium.
Though the Wisconsin offense has underperformed recently, scoring just 13 points total over the past two games, the Badgers’ defense has been playing at a championship level.
The Badgers rank first in the entire FBS in total defense (229.2 yards per game), rushing defense (72.2 yards) and passing defense (157.0 yards). They rank second in points allowed per game (12.3).
Wisconsin’s top cornerback, Rachad Wildgoose, opted out of the rest of the season two weeks ago, but the impact has been negligible. Through four games, the Badgers have allowed the following point totals: 7, 11, 17 and 14.
The linebacking corps might be the best unit on the team. Junior Jack Sanborn, named to the Bednarik Award watch list, Butkus Award watch list and Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list before the season started, leads the team in tackles with 29 (19 solo). Sanborn is graded as PFF’s No. 13 overall linebacker.
Meanwhile, sophomore Leo Chenal has taken a big step forward this season. He’s second on the team in tackles (16) and has one of the Badgers’ three interceptions through four games. Chenal is ranked as PFF’s No. 18 overall linebacker.
Wisco’s stout linebacking corps is a huge reason the Hawkeyes could have trouble rushing the ball this week. The Badgers allow just 2.95 yards per carry, good for sixth in the FBS. Wisconsin’s run defense is their strong suit, while Iowa’s run offense is their greatest strength (4.7 yards per carry).
On the other side, Iowa’s defense ranks 15th in total defense (326.4 yards) and 14th in points allowed (17.3). The clashing of heads between these two defenses could produce a very slow-paced, boring game with very little points, similar to what we saw in 2015 when Iowa defeated Wisconsin 10-6, the last time the Hawkeyes beat the Badgers.
If Iowa’s running game struggles, quarterback Spencer Petras will need to produce a mistake-free game if the Hawkeyes want to have a chance at winning.
Petras had a disastrous start in the first quarter against Illinois on Saturday, but eventually rallied to produce the best game of his career. He threw for over 200 yards and a career-high three touchdowns while completing 64 percent of his passes as the Hawkeyes won 35-21.