Week 9 scouting notebook | No. 9 Iowa vs. Wisconsin

The Hawkeyes and Badgers’ inept offenses could be the deciding factors in Saturday’s games.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum surveys the field during a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 17 Indiana at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 34-6.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

The No. 9 Iowa football team will travel to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison to take on 4-3 Wisconsin Saturday.

The Hawkeyes and Badgers both lean on their elite defense, so this Week 9 matchup could be decided by less than two scores.

Below is the DI’s full scouting report for the game.

Marquee Matchup — Iowa offensive line vs. Wisconsin defense

Iowa football’s offensive line will have its hands full against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison Saturday. Hawkeyes like center Tyler Linderbaum and guard Kyler Schott may have a tough time protecting junior quarterback Spencer Petras from the Badgers’ pass rush and creating rush lanes for junior running back Tyler Goodson.

Wisconsin is ranked second in the Big Ten in pass defense. The Badgers have surrendered about 170 yards per game to opposing passers this season. Wisconsin has also intercepted five passes this year.

Petras has thrown six picks in 2021, averaging about 194.3 passing yards per game in the process. Currently, the Hawkeyes’ air attack ranks ninth in the Big Ten.

The Badgers have recorded the fifth-most sacks in the league this year, racking up 18 in seven games. Iowa has allowed the fourth-fewest sacks in the Big Ten in 2021, surrendering 18.

“There’s certain [pass] protections where there’s communication that needs to go on,” Petras said at an Iowa football media availability session Tuesday. “Whether that’s making sure we got a bigger guy on a [linebacker], or if we can’t do that, then, making sure receivers know to break hot, things like that.”

If Petras’ adjustments to his pass protection don’t hold up, he’ll have to improvise. He probably won’t do so by escaping the pocket and making a throw downfield, however.

“I try to scramble out sometimes,” Petras said. “That’s not my strength. The biggest thing, if there is pressure, would be throwing the ball away or getting it out of my hands faster. Sometimes, it’s not possible . . . Taking sacks are a huge killer of drives, and a lot of that is my job to avoid. Whether that’s stepping up in the pocket and trying to find a lane or whatever.”

“If a guy takes a bad angle, I can get around him,” Petras added. “I’m certainly not like [NFL QB] Lamar Jackson back there.”

If Petras and the Hawkeye pass game can’t get it going Saturday, Iowa will also face a great challenge on the ground.

The Badgers rank first in the Big Ten in rush defense, allowing just 53.3 yards per game to opposing rushers. Iowa’s run game ranks 12th in the Big Ten, averaging about 117 yards per contest.

Iowa’s secondary vs. Graham Mertz

Calling Wisconsin’s sophomore starting quarterback Graham Mertz a turnover machine this season isn’t a stretch. In just seven games, Mertz has thrown seven interceptions — a one pick per game average. Mertz has thrown multiple interceptions in a single game on two occasions.

The Hawkeyes’ secondary is the most opportunistic in the country. Iowa’s picked off a nation-leading 16 passes this year, and that’s after the Hawkeyes didn’t intercept a single pass in their last game against Purdue.

Iowa’s pass defense ranks seventh in the Big Ten. The Badgers’ air attack is rated 13th in the 14-team Big Ten, gaining 146 yards per contest.

Getting to know Wisconsin

The Daily Iowan interviewed The Badger Herald’s sports editor Gavin Derkatch to learn more about Wisconsin.

The Daily Iowan: Tell me a little about Wisconsin football this season. From the outside looking in, it looks like the Badgers have been underperforming this year.

Derkatch: You could definitely say underperforming. It’s been better, at least a little bit, recently. The offense is basically a nonfactor. The running game is solid. Other than that, Mertz is a turnover machine. They’re feeling no confidence in letting him throw the ball. They’re pretty one-dimensional, offensively, which hurt against the tougher opponents on their schedule. Obviously, people haven’t really been happy with how the season’s been so far, but there’s still hope. The Badgers control their own destiny in the Big Ten West Division.

DI: What’s the mood like in Madison? It seems like this is has been sort of a DEFCON 1 type of season for the Badgers.

Derkatch: I feel like Badger fans have a real love-hate relationship with this year’s team. There were high hopes and expectations going into the season. They haven’t lived up to that. At this point, people have pretty much given up on Mertz. I mean, nobody really thinks anything of him at all. But everyone around here, no matter what, still knows what Badger football is. Badger football is defense and running the ball. This team can still do that. That’s all the fans want. Run the ball. Play good defense. Fans expect to win. It’s really Mertz that most people have the problem with. There’s still a little hope around here that Wisconsin can beat Iowa.”

DI: Let’s wrap up with your game prediction. Give me your final score. Give me any other thoughts you want.

Derkatch: I’ve been liking what I’ve been seeing from the Badgers, recently. Three wins in a row after that tough start. I think they’ve realized they can’t do anything with Mertz. They gotta run the ball, drain the clock, play good defense. I think at home this week, if they continue to do that, they can hold Iowa. The Badgers’ offense can get just enough. I think it’ll be a low-scoring game. If you want a score prediction, I’d go with like, 17-13, in favor of Wisconsin.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.