Each week during the season the Hawkeye Headquarters staff will predict the outcome of the Iowa football game.
Blake Hornstein (5-1): This weekend isn’t just about physicality, hitting the weight room, or the obvious parallels between Iowa and their border-foe Wisconsin. The biggest storyline in my eyes: Kirk Ferentz coaching against his biggest fan.
Sometimes idols become your rivals, and sometimes the transfer portal brings the wild, wild west to the Big Ten West. Luke Fickell and Kirk Ferentz’s squads were both supposed to look different this year. While neither are ranked, Wisconsin is a heavy favorite.
“They have a good team. We’re trying to become a good team.” Ferentz said Tuesday.
Iowa would probably take an encore of their 24-10 win last year, even if it doesn’t help the Ferentz family goal. Whatever winning the Heartland Trophy means, Iowa hasn’t won it back-to-back years since 2008-09. I don’t believe that will change this year.
This one’s for you, Brian.
Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Iowa 10
Ryan Jaster (5-1): Iowa-Wisconsin feels like such an epic rivalry, yet it’s only the 10th year for the Hawkeyes and Badgers as divisional foes and the Heartland Trophy only started in 2004. Wisconsin leads the close series 49-45-2, the trophy games 10-7 and the Big Ten Football Championship Game appearances 4-2 (during the West years), but somehow the matchup doesn’t get the hype.
I’d fault Iowa for not living up to it, but that might not be giving Wisconsin enough credit. Considering that the Hawkeyes never lost to the Badgers from 1977 to 1996 and no longer lead the overall series, it’s clear the Hawks haven’t held up their end of the bargain. (That’s no cherry-picked stat — they played 18 games in that span.) It’s a series of swings, and even with Iowa winning two of the last three and Wisconsin starting a new coaching era, the belief is again behind the Badgers this season.
But believe it or not, the Hawkeyes have won every game they were supposed to this year. (Doesn’t feel like it, right?) Spoiler alert: They’re not supposed to win this one. Yet the Totally Irrelevant Prediction says the Hawkeyes do: 28-26. As I watched Virtual Kirk (Virk?) kick field goal after field goal to cut the Badgers’ late lead to 14-12, a two-point lead never felt more insurmountable.
Then the game went off the rails. The Hawkeyes highlights? A 28-yard tight end wheel route to finally take the lead, a 91-yard kickoff return when forced to do it again and, ultimately, a 57-yard, 22-MPH-wind-aided field goal that hit the crossbar and hopped in for the two-point win.
It felt like a metaphor. No matter what bad things happened, the Hawkeyes had an answer. Let’s be honest: Who had Iowa 5-1 after six games? Everyone? Certainly most fans. But had I told you Cade McNamara and Luke Lachey were going to miss significant time, that confidence likely would have wavered. The win column hasn’t. Overcoming adversity is more important than outperforming offensive objectives. I say it every week, and the Hawkeyes have done it so far.
Here’s a look at what others from near and far expect, starting with the weather from Local 4’s Tyler Ryan:
David Eickholt: I’m a little surprised that the line is at double-digits, but I understand why. Wisconsin has been a team that continues to get better week-after-week. I think the Badgers have a higher ceiling, but Iowa still has a high floor despite the offense.
This is going to be a typical physical game between these two teams. Right now, I have more confidence in Wisconsin to get the job done. Iowa is riddled with injuries and there’s nothing going right on offense. The Hawkeye run-blocking has been better at times, but a backup quarterback and a lack of explosive playmakers are going to ultimately plague them.
I won’t be surprised if DeJean has a couple of big plays, but Allen will have plenty more opportunities to break down and tire out the Hawkeye defense.
This will be a back-and-forth game for three quarters, but ultimately, Wisconsin has more dynamic playmakers at this point of the season. Mordecai throws for a score and Allen rushes for another one.
Give me Wisconsin 20, Iowa 17.
Bill Connelly: Wisconsin 24, Iowa 15
Steven Lassan: Wisconsin
Joe Vitale: Iowa
Luke Easterling: Wisconsin
David Kenyon: Wisconsin 17, Iowa 13