One area of the game that may decide Wisconsin vs. Iowa

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When the Wisconsin Badgers take the field against the No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday, whichever team wins the turnover battle will likely come out on top.

Iowa has played its way to a ridiculous +12 turnover differential (it was even better before Spencer Petras’ 4-interception day against Purdue) while Wisconsin is near the bottom of the nation with a -8 margin (which was even worse before it forced 5 turnovers against Purdue).

Of all areas of this contest, turnovers is undoubtedly the most important.

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But there’s another area to watch entering Saturday, one which has been a strength of one team while being a weakness of the other: Special teams.

Yes, Wisconsin kicker Collin Larsh has been lights-out this season, connecting on 10 of 12 field goals, and punter Andy Vujnovich has done a fine job. But it’s been a special teams mistake in all of Wisconsin’s losses that ended up turning the tide.

Against Penn State a short field goal was blocked, against Notre Dame a kick return touchdown changed the game and against Michigan a muffed punt gave the Wolverines control of the contest. And that’s not even thinking back to previous seasons, where dropped punts and timely mistakes have cost the Badgers in nearly every important contest.

Related: Re-ranking the teams Wisconsin has faced this season

Iowa, on the other hand, prides itself on one of the strongest special teams cores in the nation. Kicker Caleb Shudank is 11/13 on field goals, Australian punter Tory Taylor averages 46.1 yards per punt including 12 punts of 50+ yards and the coverage teams have been masterful.

In a game with a total as low as 37 and both teams boasting similar levels of defensive dominance and offensive struggles, one or two significant plays can flip field position, hand points to the other team and change the game.

Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the matchup on special teams is a scary one entering the contest.

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Five keys to a Wisconsin victory over Iowa on Saturday