Iowa Football

Iowa football: 5 things to know about No. 16 Wisconsin

All Paul Chryst does is win

Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst. (USA TODAY Sports)
Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Here we go.

Big Ten football in Iowa City. A night game inside Kinnick Stadium.

Can it get any better?

Well, it could have been slightly better had Wisconsin not lost to BYU last Saturday. But, hey, this is another trophy game, a rivalry game with Iowa’s closest Big Ten neighbor and a clash that has produced some classic outcomes.

And both teams are 0-0 in the Big Ten, so it’s still a biggie.

Sit back and enjoy Badger week in Eastern Iowa. It should be a good one.

Here are “5 Things” about Wisconsin and this week’s game.

1. The coach

While Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz tops active Big Ten coaches with 86 career league victories, Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst is an impressive 22-4 in conference games.

In his fourth season, Chryst’s teams are 34-7 overall. He’s been a head coach for six seasons — three at Pittsburgh before returning to Wisconsin — and has coached in six bowl games.

That’s pretty impressive stuff.

A Badger in every sense of the word — he was born in Madison in 1965 — the 52-year-old Chryst’s coaching ride has included stops in Morgantown, W.Va., San Antonio, Texas, Normal, Ill., and Corvallis, Ore. He spent two seasons in the NFL with the Chargers and two in the CFL with Ottawa and Saskatchewan.

A clevleland.com story before last year’s Big Ten championship game was titled “Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst — the less interesting, more successful version of Jim Harbaugh.”

The story noted: In 2015, two new head coaches took over at tradition-rich Big Ten programs, both of them not just alumni, but former quarterbacks for their teams who had grown up in that college town, shaped by football coach fathers and forged by the passion for the program they’d now be running.

Jim Harbaugh was one, entering with a fanfare at Michigan seldom seen in the college game.

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And who was the other? Hold on ... it was, oh yes, it was Paul Chryst.

Harbaugh is 30-12 at Michigan. Chryst is the aforementioned 34-7.

Enough said.

2. The running back

Iowa’s defense has been more than stellar the first three weeks. The Hawkeyes rank second nationally, allowing just 8 points and 209 yards per game.

Against the run, Iowa is second in the Big Ten and third nationally, allowing 42 yards per game. It limited Iowa State’s David Montgomery to 44 yards.

But now comes Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. Stopping him may not be an option, but slowing him will be important.

The 5-foot-11, 221-pound sophomore may be the best back in the country. He’s at least in that conversation.

Taylor is averaging 171.7 yards per game, tops in the Big Ten and second nationally. Even in the loss to BYU, he totaled 117 yards.

He rushed for 1,977 yards as a freshman, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, and had 157 against the Hawks a year ago.

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Iowa’s No. 1 challenge is limiting his production. Wisconsin’s goal is making sure he has another big game.

3. The Iowan

Although he’s listed as questionable after suffering a right leg injury Saturday, senior Andrew Van Ginkel started at outside linebacker in the Badgers’ first three games.

He has 7 tackles this season, 1.5 for loss and 1 sack.

Last year, he totaled 39 tackles, 10 for loss with 6.5 sacks, and played in all 14 games. He had an interception in the Badgers’ Orange Bowl win.

Van Ginkel — Chryst calls him “Gink” — is from Rock Valley, where he was an all-state defensive back at Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley. He redshirted then played one season at South Dakota, starting at defensive end and earning all-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors, before transferring to Iowa Western. He recorded 50 tackles, including 13 for loss, for the Reivers in 11 games.

4. The loss

Wisconsin players seemed to take the BYU loss in stride, instead focusing on the task ahead.

Linebacker Ryan Connelly, who ranks second on the team with 16 tackles, said the loss stings, but it should. The Badgers, he said after Saturday’s game, “need to remember this feeling.”

“... it is fuel and we will get better from this,” safety D’Cota Dixon said.

The word “fun” even came up.

“It is going to be a fun next couple of days to see how we respond,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said.

“We’re going to learn from this loss and take those lessons and bring them to practice,” Taylor said. “We’re going to focus on things we need to correct to ensure we’re ready to play Iowa.”

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5. The Hawks

The Badgers obviously have respect for the Iowa, at least in their public statements.

This has been a very competitive series, for the most part, so the players know bouncing back from the loss won’t be easy.

“I think we are going to approach Iowa ready to play and ready to fight,” running back Taiwan Deal said Saturday. “We have to trust our preparation and trust the game plan.”

Chryst said this game always is “a heck of a test.”

“What’s fun about playing Iowa ... you earn everything that you get,” he said Monday. “Nothing will be given to you.

“It’s going to take everyone. It’s going to take every unit.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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