With a potential share of the Big Ten title—and a possible berth in the Rose Bowl—on the line, ninth-ranked Wisconsin visits Kinnick Stadium on Saturday to take on No. 17 Iowa in the season finale for both teams.
The Badgers (9-1, 6-1) and Hawkeyes (8-2, 6-1) are tied for second in the conference behind Michigan, which is 7-0 in the Big Ten. If the Wolverines lose at Ohio State on Saturday, the winner of this game will gain a share of the league title.
If the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes, they secure the Rose Bowl berth, but a Michigan loss will open the door to Pasadena for the Badgers if they beat the Hawkeyes, because Wisconsin would have a better overall record than Michigan.
An Iowa victory paired with a Michigan loss would still send the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl.
“We’ve got one big game left,” Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco said. “We’ve got to improve, have a good week of practice, and get ready.”
Wisconsin needs to bounce back after seeing its school-record tying nine-game win streak snapped in stunning fashion, as it suffered a 49-14 rout at the hands of Michigan State last week.
The Spartans had little trouble with a Wisconsin defense rated among the nation’s best, rolling up 551 yards of offense, including 430 on the ground. The Badgers came in allowing 9.1 points per game, fewest in the nation, but gave up a season-high 21 points by halftime.
“They didn’t do anything specific,” Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. “They didn’t do anything we hadn’t seen. We didn’t play well in any phase of the game.”
Despite the poor performance, the Badgers still rank third nationally with 13.1 points allowed per game and seventh with 277.3 yards allowed.
The play of Saturday’s game came just before halftime, when Wisconsin running back Anthony Davis was stopped at the goal line on fourth down. A touchdown would have tied the game, and the Badgers never recovered.
“That was a big momentum shift,” Davis said. “When something like that happens you really have to pull together as a team and get the momentum back, somehow, some way. We didn’t do that.”
Davis finished with 128 yards on 21 carries, including a touchdown, and Stocco was 20-for-38 for 178 yards.
The Badgers are seeking their fourth conference title under Alvarez. They’ve won 10 games in a season, including bowl games, just four times in the program’s 116-year history.
“We can still make it a great season,” punter Ken DeBauche said. “We have a week left, and we can still go out on top.”
Iowa, winner of 17 straight at home, won its sixth straight overall Saturday in narrow fashion, 29-27 over Minnesota.
The Hawkeyes, whose last four wins have come by a total of 16 points, survived when the Gophers’ Rhys Lloyd missed a 51-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining.
“We’re definitely not a statistics team, but this is one of those years when we find some way to get things done,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’ve got eight wins and they can’t take any of them away.”
Drew Tate completed 24 of 39 passes for 333 yards and two long touchdowns, while Clinton Solomon had nine receptions for 157 yards and a score.
The Hawkeyes gained only six rushing yards while their defense, which entered with a conference-best average of 68.2 yards rushing allowed, gave up a combined 323 on the ground to Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III.
But Iowa, which has not lost at home since Sept. 14, 2002, had no turnovers, forced four and got a school-record five field goals and 17 points from Kyle Schlicher.
Wisconsin leads the series with Iowa 39-38-2. The Hawkeyes have won the last two meetings after losing five straight and are 22-14-1 at home against the Badgers.