To get a better look at Wisconsin ahead of this showdown, we turned to the expert. Our colleague, Asher Low, does a terrific job with his coverage of Wisconsin for Badgers Wire.
Similar to Iowa, this has been a turbulent-at-times season for Wisconsin. Here’s a look behind enemy lines on several topics with Low of Badgers Wire.
What was your reaction to the Paul Chryst firing? How has that impacted the season?
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Asher Low of Badgers Wire: Initial shock for sure. This is Wisconsin, and it historically takes quite a bit for a coach to be fired. This isn’t a school that has a revolving door of leaders, but luckily the right one was already in the building. The players loved Paul Chryst, and for good reason. It was an emotional time for the entire program, but they have responded well.
What are your impressions of the job Jim Leonhard has done?
Jim Leonhard has done a fantastic job, and it’s no surprise. He’s worked his way up from a defensive backs coach fresh off of his playing days to the head coach of his alma mater in just 7 years. The players have rallied around his leadership and the new-look defense has steadily improved in recent weeks.
Where do you expect Wisconsin to have success in this game?
Wisconsin’s defense, specifically the secondary, has been playing much better football in recent weeks. Part of it is getting healthy, part of it is the comradery being created by the transfers and new starters, and part of it is the work of Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig wrecking havoc in the backfield. I don’t need to tell your readers about the Brian Ferentz experience, but Wisconsin can certainly win that side of the ball.
What are the biggest pitfalls in your mind against Iowa?
Graham Mertz has to be at his best against a talented Hawkeyes secondary, and the Badgers have to find a way to win in the red zone. That area of the field concerns me most, as Iowa has been solid once the ball finds its way inside the 20, where the Badgers have faltered time and time again.
Thanks to Michigan State beating Illinois, the stakes in this game are at least near the same neighborhood of what we expected. How important is this game for Wisconsin?
You know what, I just wrote a how Wisconsin wins the Big Ten West article so you could say we are believing again. It isn’t over yet, and this is the toughest matchup left on Wisconsin’s schedule all things considered. This game matters! Not only due to the history between these two, but yes, the Big Ten West title feels more in reach than it has in weeks.
The Badgers have won 8 of the past 10 against Iowa. How much if at all does that factor in in your mind?
I generally don’t love looking at the history because every year is such a different animal, but these are two programs that stay pretty consistent from season to season. Wisconsin has simply done a better version of what Iowa wants to do over the past decade. This year, it could be as low-scoring of a game as ever in this rivalry.