MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz used last week’s bye to get away.
The 64-year-old coach went to a high school football game, and he and his wife, Mary, watched their son, Steve, help lead Central Michigan to its sixth win, which made the Chippewas bowl eligible.
“That was fun to be a fan and not be too emotionally invested in the game,” Ferentz said. “Although I got sucked in after a little bit, so it was good.”
Steve, a graduate assistant with Central Michigan, traveled earlier this season to Wisconsin, where the Badgers handed the Chippewas a 61-0 defeat. The elder Ferentz hopes to fair better at Camp Randall on Saturday.
Ferentz and No. 18 Iowa (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten, No. 18 CFP) will face No. 16 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2, No. 13), which has won six seven meetings against the Hawkeyes since 2010.
“It really doesn’t matter if you look at it over five years, 10 years, 15 years,” Ferentz said. “If you look at our conference, Ohio State has led the conference in wins, and Wisconsin has been a solid No. 2 right behind them. That gives you a good level of the success they’ve had on the field, the consistency they’ve demonstrated as a football team.”
The Badgers have outscored the Hawkeyes by a combined margin of 83-40 during their current three-game winning streak in the series, but they are reeling after back-to-back road losses at Illinois and Ohio State.
“There have been a couple games where we haven’t been able to consistently run the football,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “I think there are some things you can do schematically to help that, and some things that you can do technically. What’s kind of fun about it is we all have to own it. Coaches have got to own it. Players have got to own it. I think there are some areas that we can take some steps forward.”
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
After running for more than 100 yards in six of Wisconsin’s first seven games this season, Jonathan Taylor was held to 52 yards against Ohio State and fell out of the Heisman Trophy conversation. It was the third-lowest total of the junior running back’s career.
“The good thing about this team is that we understand we know these next games are Big Ten West games, so, it’s a critical point in time,” he said. “We’ve got to use those losses to motivate us because we understand that there’s opportunity out there. But to get to those opportunities, you’ve got to win the West, and it starts with Iowa.”
Taylor, who has run for 5,180 yards in his career, is averaging 126.1 yards rushing per game this season.
Taylor will face an Iowa defense that has surrendered only 10.1 points per game, the lowest average in Ferentz’s 21 seasons at Iowa. The nine touchdowns the Hawkeyes have allowed this season rank in a tie for second in the nation with Penn State behind only Ohio State’s six.
Wisconsin’s defense leads the nation in total defense (223.5 yards per game) and is tied for fourth in the FBS in scoring defense (11.4 points per game).
Iowa is seeking its first win this season against a ranked opponent. It has four shutouts in its last 11 Big Ten games, while Wisconsin has four shutouts this season.
“They’ve had four shutouts and playing really good defense, giving up the fewest amount of yards in the Big Ten,” Ferentz said. “You’re playing an outfit that’s tough to score against, and then special teams, just they work hard, well-coached, good schemes, and very, very productive, very, very aggressive.”
Iowa’s Nate Stanley has thrown for 1,950 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. The 6-foot-4 senior has 62 career touchdown passes, which ranks second in program history. Chuck Long is first with 74.
Jack Coan has thrown 10 touchdowns against two interceptions this season for the Badgers, and has completed 74.5% of his passes, which ranks third nationally. But the junior had a season-low 58.8 completion percentage against the Buckeyes.
“It will be fun to play my first game against Iowa,” said Coan, who will make his 13th career start (8-4) on Saturday. “Obviously, there’s a rivalry there, and any Big Ten West opponent is going to be tough. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
SHOOT YOUR SCHOTT
Iowa guard Kyler Schott is expected to return from a foot injury that has had the sophomore sidelined since September. Schott started at right guard before his injury, and Ferentz said Schott could start Saturday.
“Well, he’s not in the best football shape probably; he hasn’t done anything in quite a bit,” Ferentz said. “But the good news is it’s chilly out there right now, so heat will not be a factor or humidity, and we’ll see how the week goes.”