So in about 12 hours, the University of Wisconsin Badgers open the Big Ten football season by hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes. As has been well documented on this site and in other locations, UW has a young, talented team (with a few questionable key parts) that is struggling to put it all together. Iowa looks a bit lopsided-- they have a veteran defense, headlined by an excellent defensive line, but a mostly inexperienced and, so far, middling offense.
In terms of specific personnel, keep an eye on Mitch King, a defensive tackle who absolutely killed the Badgers in Barry's last home game two years ago, and their hilariously named linebacker Klinkenborg, a physical run stopper. They have two solid running backs in Albert (I anoint him today's honorary Frenchman, and thus I am pronouncing his first name as "Al-Bear") Young and Damien Sims, and a solid TE, but green wideouts (the starters were lost to off the field troubles), a new sophomore QB (who was a well thought of recruit), and several new faces on the offensive line.
Here's what I foresee-- UW will have trouble moving the ball, but hopefully, so will Iowa. I think Iowa will likely win the UW O-line/Iowa D-Line match-up for most of the game, and thus, PJ and Lance will not have a lot of room to run. With TD behind center and not exactly having proven himself as a great passer, and with Hubbard injured, Iowa will sell out to stop the run. On passing plays, Donovan will get a fair amount of pressure, so hold onto the ball, Tyler, and look to break runs when you can. Teams have never really been able to account for mobile quarterbacks, and UW should look to take advantage of TD's legs. But Beckum and Swan should be able to get open, so if Donovan can deliver accurate balls, perhaps on rollouts or other moves designed to buy time in the passing game, UW should be able to break plays occasionally.
People seem to think that the Badgers' D will finally step up-- after three games to get the kinks out, and with a match-up against a more conventional-style offense. But Al-Bear and Sims are pretty good, and though the Iowa offensive line is green, the Badger D-line and linebackers have underperformed to date, even against powering offensive lines like those possessed by the Citadel and UNLV. (That's a little irony there.) So, I think Iowa will be able to break some runs from time to time, though they should have difficultly passing. I'm hopeful that the wood will finally be laid down by the defense, and we'll see a really strong, complete game out of that unit, but I'm not super optimistic. I'd predict a pretty solid game for the Badger D, but one more attributable to Iowa's inexperience and nerves.
I'd look for a score with the winner in the high teens and the loser in the low teens. A tight, semi-ugly, tense game. To win, UW will likely need DeBauche to snap out of his funk and punt decently, as bizarre as that sounds. And the turnover battle could be big-- if UW can avoid giving the ball to Iowa, and keep the field long, that'd be a huge advantage. You'd hope, with the Badgers better offensive talent and home field advantage, that they'd come out on top. But we shall see...