Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (3-1 SU, 2-0 ATS)
NCAA Week 5
Date/Time: October 3, 12 PM ET
Where: Camp Randall Stadium
by Evergreen, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: IOWA +7/UW -7
Over/Under Total: 47
Most of the non-conference schedule for Power 5 football teams is little more than a chance to get some easy wins and gain some momentum heading into conference play. To be fair, there have been plenty of nationally relevant matchups over the first month of the NCAA Football season but conference games, especially rivalries, are the best kind of games to watch. One such contest takes place in Madison this weekend as the Wisconsin Badgers host the Iowa Hawkeyes. These two squads have plenty of similarities and have been good rivals for a long time. This game has a lot of implications as both teams have their eye on winning the Big Ten West division.
This Midwest matchup opened with the Badgers as an eight point favorite but the line has moved more commonly to UW -7 and there are some -6 lines floating around and the over/under total is set at 47. These teams are 5-5 straight up in their last ten meetings dating back to 2003 but the Hawkeyes have had the better luck against the spread, going 8-3 against the Badgers in the last 11 between the schools. The visitor has done well of late with a 6-2 ATS record in the last eight games.
This game has been contested in each of the last three years and curiously, Wisconsin has had to travel to Iowa City for each game. That hasnt bothered Bucky with UW picking up three wins, including a 26-24 decision last year. Melvin Gordon ran for 200 yards in that one and the Badgers did just enough to hold stop Iowa late. A good deal has changed for both teams on the personnel front but there is little mystery to either team as these programs are pretty old-school in going about their business.
Iowa has looked solid in wins against Iowa State and Pitt in addition to tune-ups against Illinois State and North Texas. C.J. Beathard has played well while completing 64% of his passes and adds enough of a running dimension to make opposing defense account for him. Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels Jr. are a good backfield tandem with both runners chewing up nearly five yards a carry. There is a lack of a top playmaker for the Hawkeyes but junior wideout Matt VandeBerg has been effective in leading the team with 218 yards on 22 catches, including two scores. Iowa is balanced on offense, ranking in the top-60 in both passing and rushing yards per game and has averaged 37.8 points per contest.
Wisconsin has righted the ship after getting handled by Alabama in the opener. UW has three straight wins against sub-standard opponents but the defense has looked great no matter the competition. Miami (Ohio), Troy and Hawaii combined for three points against the Badgers and Wisconsin enters the week as the 5th best scoring defense, allowing just 9.5 points per game overall. Joel Stave has been sharp under Paul Chryst, completing 67% of his passes and pacing an offense that is without its best player. Running back Corey Clement was injured early in the opener and will now miss another month or so with a sports hernia. Dare Ogunbowale and freshman Taiwan Deal have taken up the slack on the ground and both have been good considering the situation. Deal was named Big Ten freshman of the week after his performance against Hawaii and looks to be the next in that long line of quality Wisconsin tailbacks.
It should be said that this is a very even match. Wisconsin is fantastic at home and the rightful favorite but this game is an easy 50/50 on a neutral field. The Badgers arent quite as good as they have been along the offensive line in recent years and that has made the running game less efficient. Stave has done some good work to move the ball through the air and the Hawkeyes have been passed on so far, allowing 210 yards per game to the opposition. The Badgers are still going to line up and pound it plenty but there is a bit of an additional passing game wrinkle now under Chryst. Iowa will have to solve the puzzle of how to move the ball on the Badger defense. Wisconsin is allowing just 292 yards per game and has made teams consistently face long down and distances. If Canzeri or Daniels can get some traction with the rush, Iowa will stay on track but Beathard will have to make some plays in the passing game as UW is giving up just 82 yards per game on the ground.
If you long for the leather helmet days, this game might be for you. Both of these teams really want to run first and often but both have very capable run-stopping defenses. Something has to give there but even if someone gets it going on the ground, neither team is powerful enough to simply run away from the other. Turnovers, field position and special teams will be huge as there is just so much parity from a talent standpoint. Give the home field edge to the Badgers as far as a straight-up win is concerned but UW isnt a touchdown better than Iowa right now so take the Hawkeyes and the points. Wisconsin 26 Iowa 23
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: IOWA. Looking to bet online? Get your action down using your credit card and get a 50% deposit bonus up to $250 free at Bovada
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