Now things are getting serious.
It’s November and if you’re playing important games in November, it’s serious.
This is serious for Iowa and Wisconsin, who meet Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium for the 93rd time.
They are tied for second in the Big Ten West, behind Minnesota, at 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten. Both still have to play the Gophers (8-0, 5-0).
So division title hopes are on the line. The winner keeps those hopes alive, the loser is out of the running.
It’s that simple. And that serious.
Here are 5 Things about the Badgers.
1. Streaks and series
Iowa has won two in a row, Wisconsin has lost two in a row.
Wisconsin has won three straight in this series, including a 28-17 verdict last season at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The Badgers also have won seven of the last 10 and own a 47-43-2 lead in the series.
What does all this mean?
Probably nothing, but numbers can be fun.
Wisconsin probably doesn’t think its two-game losing streak is too much fun, however. The Badgers were on track to run through the West but were shocked by Illinois, 24-23, on Oct. 19, then dominated by Ohio State, 38-7, on Oct. 26.
Like Iowa, Wisconsin had last Saturday off. And the Badgers probably needed it.
2. Running man
It appears, as Jonathan Taylor goes, so go the Badgers.
Taylor had just 52 yards on 20 rushes against Ohio State and failed to score a touchdown. Despite that, he still ranks fifth in the nation — second in the Big Ten — at 126.1 rushing yards per game, He also is seventh nationally — and second in the Big Ten again — at 144 al-purpose yards per game.
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A 5-foot-11 junior from Salem, N.J., Taylor is the latest in a long line of outstanding Wisconsin running backs. He has 5,180 career yards and already has topped 1,000 this season — his third season over that milestone. He had 2,194 yards last year.
He has averaged 6.47 yards per carry in his career.
He’s also a scoring machine — except against Ohio State. He has 15 touchdowns this season, one less that his career-high set last year.
Against Iowa, he has totaled 270 yards in two games, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
3. Through the air
Great running backs may define the Badgers on offense, but Wisconsin also has a history of some pretty good quarterbacks.
Meet Jack Coan, a 6-3, 218-pound junior from Sayville, N.Y.
Playing behind Alex Hornibrook, who decided to transfer to Florida State for his final season, Coan played in just 11 games before this season. He won a four-horse race for the starting position and hasn’t disappointed.
Coan ranks first in the Big Ten and third nationally in completion percentage at 74.5 — that’s 137 of 184 — and is fourth in the Big Ten in passing efficiency at 158.3.
In eight games, he has passed for 1,491 yards with 10 TDs and just two interceptions.
4. On the defense
Despite its two-game losing streak and lopsided loss to the Buckeyes, Wisconsin remains all about defense.
The Badgers are allowing 11.4 points and 223.5 yards per game. The latter number ranks first in the country. Iowa is third in the Big Ten and sixth in the country in total defense.
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Wisconsin also leads the country in passing efficiency defense and is second in the Big Ten and fifth nationally against the run, allowing just 84.1 yards per game.
Chris Orr, Zack Baun and Jack Sanborn are the force that guides the defense. Orr has a team-best nine sacks, Baun has a team-high 12 tackles for loss and Sanborn leads the team with 46 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks.
5. Alvarez Effect
Wisconsin wasn’t always the Wisconsin it is today.
Then Barry Alvarez showed up in Madison in 1990 and everything changed.
A former Iowa assistant who was defensive coordinator at Notre Dame when Pat Richter hired him at Wisconsin, Alvarez took the Badgers from 1-10 his first season to 10-1 and a Rose Bowl victory in his fourth. He ended up coaching Wisconsin to 120 wins in 16 seasons and three Rose Bowl wins.
Named AD in 2004, he hired Brett Bielema, who won 68 games in seven seasons, to take his place, then went with Gary Andersen, who lasted just two seasons but won 19 games.
Paul Chryst, a Madison native, took over in 2015 and directed the Badgers to 10, 11 and 13 wins in his first three seasons. He has won 48 games in his four-plus years and is 4-0 in bowl games.
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