According to ESPN’s numbers, Wisconsin is favored with a 51.3% chance of winning the game. ESPN’s Football Power Index likes Wisconsin a little bit better than Iowa, ranking the Badgers No. 22 while the Hawkeyes check in at No. 37 in the ESPN FPI.
The Badgers have won eight out of the past 10 Heartland Trophy games, including four of the past five meetings inside Kinnick Stadium. Five of those past 10 meetings have been decided by just one score, so the historical track record is also there for this game to be close. With that in mind, it’s reasonable why this game is close to a virtual toss-up per the ESPN matchup predictor.
Both teams enter 5-4 overall and with matching 3-3 Big Ten marks as well. Iowa and Wisconsin are each riding identical two-game winning streaks, too.
Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz is certainly well aware of the type of challenge that the Badgers will present.
“This is a rivalry game, has been for a long time. One thing that’s been pretty consistent over the years, it’s usually a really hard-fought game, very, very competitive against a really good program,” Ferentz said during his weekly press conference.
Ferentz noted how over his nearly 30 years coaching in this rivalry game, Wisconsin is a program he, his staff and Iowa have had a lot of respect and admiration for.
“They’ve been good, really as far back as you can think. A lot of commonalities team to team. They’re strong, very physical, very fundamentally sound, and typically play really smart football on top of it. Very opportunistic.
“This year is really no exception from my vantage point. They’ve got a veteran quarterback, outstanding running back, and he’s got a good backup behind him. The receivers and tight ends are doing a good job, and their offensive line is one of the better ones that we’re going to face, if not the best one. It’s going to be a challenge for our guys there.
“Defensively they’ve played several different styles over the years but they’ve certainly settled into a 3-4 front and it’s been really productive for them. They’ve been great defensively. Now for quite some time they got some new faces out there, but production seems to be the same, so they’re really doing a good job there.
“And then good on special teams like you’d think. They really work hard, play hard, and have a really outstanding punter, veteran guy who does a good job. So he’ll be a factor in the game, as well, I’m sure. Just all in all, got our hands full there. It’s going to be good to be back in Kinnick certainly. Should be a great environment, good football day, so looking forward to that,” Ferentz said of Wisconsin.
Iowa will don alternate uniforms against the Badgers to honor the military during the Hawkeyes’ “Black Out” game. Both teams have seen their national stock rising over the past several weeks, so it figures to be another classic edition in this rivalry.
Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday from Kinnick Stadium with the game televised on FS1.
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