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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW takes on Iowa with chance to solidify spot atop West Division


The road to the Big Ten Championship game has cleared for the Wisconsin football team, but it still has two final roadblocks to clear.

After a 59-24 thumping of Nebraska last weekend to move into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten West, the Badgers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) head to Iowa City this weekend to take on Iowa (7-3, 4-2)  in their final road game of the season.

Following an FBS record 408 rushing yards against the Cornhuskers, Melvin Gordon will again carry a large load for Wisconsin, as it looks to knock the Hawkeyes out of the tight West Division race.


After a dismal 38-yard performance in UW’s second game against Western Illinois, Gordon has gone on to rush for at least 100 yards in every game since, including five games with 200 yards or more.

Head coach Gary Andersen explained that Gordon has improved in multiple areas since last season, but there has been one common theme to those improvements.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things but it’s a combination of one thing, after it’s all said and done, it’s hard work for himself to get himself in tremendous shape like he always was,” Andersen said. “But he’s a notch above where he was before this season.”

But although Gordon has had a great deal of success this season, he hasn’t put up 1,909 rushing yards and 23 rushing scores alone. A big part of his breakout season, especially his record-breaking day against Nebraska this past Saturday, has a lot to do with the five players in front of him that make up the offensive line.

“You look back at the tape, those offensive linemen played as good of a game that the five of them have played together all year long,” Andersen said. “I thought the tight end block and the fullbacks was very good there. … and the wide receivers did some great things down the field. But those five young men up front did an outstanding job.”

Despite his recent success, Gordon struggled a season ago at Iowa when he rushed for just 68 yards on 17 carries. Coming off a career day against the Huskers, Gordon could be in for a slower day against Iowa, which has allowed an average of just 147.8 rushing yards per game.

Collectively, the Iowa defense ranks sixth in the Big Ten in total yards allowed per game, with no specific weakness as the rushing and passing defenses both rank sixth in the Big Ten, too.

But although the Hawkeyes might not have a specific strength or weakness defensively, it’s the offense that stands out as the key unit, according to Andersen.

“They’re a powerful run game, they haven’t changed, especially the last couple of weeks as far as what they want to be,” Andersen said. “I think they are at their best as far as being a physical, powerful football team, running the ball with a big offensive line with a ton of experience, good tight ends, two or three tailbacks roll in and out of there.”

But although Andersen pointed to the rushing attack of the Hawkeyes, the numbers actually show that the passing game has been more successful this season. Iowa ranks fifth in the Big Ten in passing, averaging more than 236 yards through the air per game. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes rank seventh in the conference in rushing, with an average of 163.3 yards per contest.

The Hawkeyes’ balanced offense should pose another big test for the Badgers’ top ranked defense, which is first in the conference in points against, total yards against and passing yards against.

The Wisconsin defensive unit is coming off one of its better outings of the season against Nebraska, where it held the Huskers to 180 total yards, including just 62 through the air.

The linebackers played a key role defensively, especially Joe Schobert, who finished with 11 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Andersen spoke highly of the former walk-on, who has made a pivotal impact this year for the Badgers after losing six of the front seven from last year’s defense.

“He’s a patient player because things are easy for them on the field a lot of times,” Andersen said. “He’s extremely smart.”

“He’s a good pass rusher, hard to block, regardless of who is going against him in the pass rushing situations. In the run game he’s statute enough and strong enough to be able to get his hands on you and knock you back, but he also has the ability to be athletic enough to make you miss.”

Wisconsin’s top three tacklers against Nebraska were all linebackers, including Schobert, Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch. All three are first-year starters, but have filled big shoes and have become a vital component to Wisconsin’s defensive success.

As far as the game in general, Wisconsin will battle for another rivalry trophy Saturday with the Heartland Trophy on the line. Wisconsin won last year’s meeting at Kinnick 28-9, but the series has been closely contested throughout, with the Badgers holding the all-time edge 43-42.

With both teams 4-4 in the last eight meetings, Saturday’s contest could again go either way.

But one thing is for certain, it will be another smash mouth Big Ten matchup for the Badgers, as they try to solidify their spot atop the West.

“It’s going to be a ‘bang‑around’ game and that’s a little bit of an interesting part to this whole last few games,” Andersen said. “We’re playing with Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota, it’s kind of the round robin, right, everybody is playing each other as you’re going through it, and they’re all physical teams.”

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