Iowa vs Wisconsin Prediction
Head Coach Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin Badgers have seen mixed results throughout the 2021 season. They own a 4-3 record, losing every game against ranked opponents. That includes losses to Penn State, Notre Dame, and Michigan. They lost by a combined 49 points to ND and Michigan. Wisconsin’s on a 3-game win streak now, though, beating Illinois, Army, and Purdue by a combined 47 points.
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes have been enjoying an outstanding 2021 season thus far. They started the season 6-0, including wins over ranked opponents in Iowa State and Penn State. Their schedule hasn’t been overly difficult, but it’s hard to argue with the early results. The major concern is Iowa is coming off of a 24-7 loss to Purdue in their last game.
Can Iowa get back on track this week or did Wisconsin’s steady early-season competition prepare them for their first ranked victory?
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Wisconsin’s struggled against the spread a bit this season. They boast a 3-4 ATS record, winning their games by an average of 2.7 points. With that being said, they’ve struggled with a -7.2 ATS+/- through 7 games. Wisconsin’s covered in 2 of their last 3, failing to cover only against a unique Army offense.
Iowa’s found significantly more success, posting a 5-2 ATS record thus far. They’re winning their games by an average of 13.4 points, boasting a 4.6 ATS +/- in 2021. Iowa failed to cover as a -11 favorite against Purdue in their last game, losing by 17 points.
These teams feature two of the best run defenses in the NCAA. Whoever can control the ball, the clock, and have the most rushing success is likely to leave the stadium with a win this weekend.
Wisconsin ranks eighth in the NCAA, running the ball on 64.9% of their offensive plays this season. They feature a dominant running back in Chez Mellusi with Braelon Allen flashing in recent games, as well. Overall, Wisconsin’s averaging 218.4 rushing yards per game this season. They’re also averaging 295.3 over their last 3 games. Furthermore, they’re averaging 4.7 yards per carry in 2021. It jumps to 5.8 over their last 3 games, as well.
Iowa’s featured an elite run defense, though, finding plenty of success this season. They’re holding their opponents to only 89.7 rushing yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry in 2021. Both of these rank in the top-10 of the NCAA.
With that being said, it hasn’t been impossible to run on them. Breece Hall averaged 4.3 yards per carry against them, although this is significantly worse than his season average. Maryland also averaged 5.7 yards per carry in their game, although they only had 19 rush attempts.
Iowa isn’t quite as one-dimensional offensively as Wisconsin, although they’ve run the ball on 53.4% of their offensive plays in 2021. With that being said, Iowa’s only averaging 116.9 rushing yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry this season. Their yards per carry ranks only 110th in the country.
Wisconsin’s arguably the best run defense in the NCAA. They’re allowing only 53.3 rushing yards per game and 1.9 yards per carry this season. These both lead the nation. They are skewed a bit by allowing -13 rushing yards to Purdue last week.
Wisconsin looked dominant against the run from some of the best teams in the country this season. They stopped Penn State, Notre Dame, and Michigan’s rushing attack, even if they didn’t win those games.
Iowa can’t be one-dimensional in this game, although Wisconsin’s defense comes with multiple skillsets rather than solely defending the run.
Wisconsin also has the ability to pressure the quarterback throughout their games. They’ve posted an 8.3% sack rate, which ranks 22nd in the NCAA. Their ability to get to opposing quarterbacks allows them to post a 6.0 opponent yards per pass attempt, which ranks in the top-10 of the nation.
Wisconsin can put Spencer Petras in tough situations throughout the game with their pressure. Iowa ranks outside of the top-100 in the country in sack percentage (7.9%). That number also jumps to 9.2% on the road this season. Petras is coming off of a 4 interception game against Purdue, and Wisconsin could force him and Iowa into more predictable late-down situations.
Wisconsin isn’t great at protecting their quarterback either, as they rank 93rd in the country in sack percentage (7.4%). Oddly, that jumps to 9.5% at home, where quarterbacks should feel more comfortable. This is likely because of the competition Wisconsin’s played at home thus far.
The main difference is that Iowa doesn’t get to the quarterback as often as Wisconsin. They only rank 91st in the NCAA with a 5.6% sack rate. The big difference in this game could be pressure creating turnovers.
Ultimately, I expect this game to be extremely close and low-scoring throughout. Wisconsin’s defense should be the key to winning, though, and Iowa’s lack of elite competition early in the season could put them in tough situations throughout this game.
I’m backing a short home favorite against a top-25 team this weekend.
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