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Editor’s note: This is 10th in a 12-part series previewing Iowa football’s 2022 opponents.
In six of the eight years of the Big Ten West’s existence, the division champion has come from either Madison, Wis., or Iowa City.
That could happen again in 2022, with the Nov. 12 Iowa-Wisconsin football game at Kinnick Stadium likely playing a pivotal role in who goes to Indianapolis four weeks later.
The Badgers’ offense will have a similar look as last year. Quarterback Graham Mertz and running back Braelon Allen are among the returning starters.
Mertz, a former four-star recruit who chose Wisconsin over Alabama and others, hasn’t exactly been a star in Madison. He had 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 59.5 percent of his passes last year.
Allen, on the other hand, has been off to an impressive start since arriving in Madison. As a true freshman, he rushed for 1,268 yards at a clip of 6.8 yards per carry.
Wisconsin’s defense lost some key pieces from its 2021 unit, namely Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal, but it still should be one of the better groups in the Big Ten. Linebacker Nick Herbig could be in the conversation for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Iowa vs. Wisconsin: 3 things to watch
- Can Iowa successfully establish the run? It’s hard to win a game when you average 0.8 yards per carry. That was exactly the position Iowa was in in last year’s loss to Wisconsin.
- Can Iowa’s defense contain Allen? The then-freshman ran for 104 yards against the Hawkeyes in 2021, lessening the pressure on Mertz to throw against Iowa’s secondary. The more Wisconsin has to turn to Mertz, the better odds Iowa will have of winning.
- How much time does Iowa’s starting quarterback have to throw? Last year’s game at Camp Randall was a long day for Iowa’s Spencer Petras, partly because of how little time he had to throw. He took a season-high five sacks and suffered a shoulder injury that derailed his second half of 2021.
Like many previous Iowa-Wisconsin games, this year’s renewal of the rivalry likely will not be a high-scoring affair. Both defenses should be among the best in the Big Ten. Both offenses have less-than-perfect quarterback situations.
The Badgers’ proven ability to run the ball gives them a slight edge at this point, but who’s favored to take home the Heartland Trophy could change a few times between now and Nov. 12.
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