October 18, 2008

Five things to watch: Iowa

MADISON, Wis. - When the schedule for this season was released, the Wisconsin football team knew it was going to be a tough road. Starting off play with tilts Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State had never been done before in the history of the league. Still, after UW started off 0-3 in those games, many associated with the team are somewhat taken aback.

The good news, though, is half of the 2008 season still remains on the Badger schedule. With that, comes six opportunities to salvage a season on the brink and it starts this week at Iowa.

The following are five things to watch Saturday afternoon during the battle for the Heartland Trophy:

1.) UW's new quarterback?

While no one on the coaching staff officially announced a new starting quarterback, it seems a change is on its way.

"We definitely made a directional move today and told our kids why we had to do it," Bielema said Thursday night following practice. "Basically, we'll go into Saturday with that game plan.

"Whoever it ends up being, the one thing I wanted those guys to understand between the quarterbacks is it's just like any other situation. We're going to go with you, don't be looking over your shoulder. Go in there and play."

Based from those comments, it looks like Dustin Sherer may be notching his first career start against the fifth best scoring defense in the nation. How he will be able to handle the pressure of playing in a hostile environment, as well as the pressure of a three game losing streak, will be interesting to see.

2.) Shonn Greene:

He is the only running back in the entire country to log seven straight 100-yard rushing performances. He only needs 63 more yards to hit the 1,000-yard plateau.

It will be interesting to see how UW's relatively thin defensive line is able to stand up to Greene's physical, bruising style. If he has success rushing the ball early, it may be another long day for UW.

3.) UW's running game:

Iowa has only given up 10.8 points per game so far in the season. They also allow less than 100 yards rushing from their opponents. For the Badgers to be successful, they have to break out on the ground. It will be extra critical if the UW coaches decide to go with Sherer at quarterback.

The last thing the Badgers want to do is play catch up by throwing the ball. Look for a heavy dose of P.J. Hill and John Clay in an attempt to grind down the exceptional Hawkeye defensive line.

4.) Special teams:

Recently, the Badger special teams units have underperformed. Freshman punter Brad Nortman is apparently going through growing pains and cannot make good contact with the ball when punting.

David Gilreath has not been able to spark the offense with the big return. Frankly, in games with evenly matched teams like Iowa and Wisconsin, it is the team with more fundamentally sound special teams that win.

5.) Must win game:

I suppose you could call this the crossroads of UW's 2008 season. Sure, losing to a bad Michigan team hurt, but losses to Ohio State and Penn State are a little more acceptable, even though UW played them both at home.

The fact remains the Badgers are winless in the conference and could see their season totally fall apart with a loss to the Hawkeyes.

There are six games remaining in 2008 and all are winnable. Both UW coaches and players have not, and will not give up on the season and this team still has the potential to make it to a bowl game.

Look for a determined Badger squad to take the Kinnick Stadium field and play a complete four-quarter game.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!