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October 16, 2009

UW hosts Iowa in crucial Big Ten game

MADISON - Senior free safety Chris Maragos remembers exactly how it felt when Iowa drubbed Wisconsin a season ago. As if that wasn't bad enough, the memory of what it felt to watch the Hawkeyes storm the Badgers sideline and claim the Heartland Trophy just added a little salt in the wound.

"That was horrible man," Maragos said. "I remember sitting there and it looked like that was their best rep of the day sprinting over. Those guys, they were hungry for it. Boy, I tell you, just to walk off there was just demoralizing.

"They physically whooped us that game."

This year though, UW senior Dustin Sherer is not the Badgers starting quarterback and Iowa no longer has Shonn Greene who carved up UW's frail defense last season. But, they still remain two schools and programs with plenty of similarities.

When you combine all those facts, there is no disguising what is expected in this game.

"We know what's coming," UW senior Jaevery McFadden said. "We know the zone is coming. We know they're going to throw to No. 81 (Tony Moeaki), the tight end. They're basically telling us to stop it.

"That's what we're going to try to do on Saturday."

The Hawkeyes will enter Camp Randall Stadium as an undefeated team and will boast the nation's second longest winning streak (10 games). It will be homecoming in Madison with what will surely be a feisty crowd.

For UW, after losing its first game of the season at Ohio State a week ago, Saturday's game will be a chance to get back on the winning track. Even more importantly, a win over Iowa will put the Badgers back in a position to make noise in the Big Ten conference race.

"Where we're at right now, because of our schedule, the way it's put us and because of what lays in front of us, this is a pivotal game," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "You just look at the Big Ten conference. I've been up front with our guys, Iowa sits atop right now and Ohio State, because they are undefeated in the conference. We've lost one.

"If we want to have any shot of things down the road, this is the game you've got to win to control our destiny."

Even with a couple of close wins over traditionally weaker opponents, Iowa has put together a solid resume over the first half of the season. A few of its more impressive wins have been ones at Penn State, at Iowa State and home against Michigan.

They have a very strong defensive line that makes it difficult for opponents to muster a bevy of offensive momentum and an offense that seems to play better with the return of Moeaki.

"They're not the biggest guys and they're not the tallest," UW running back John Clay said. "But they've always got that motor. They're non-stop mentality and just want to keep fighting until that last whistle blows.

"That's just what drives them and keeps them going."

Saturday's game will be the 85th meeting between Wisconsin and Iowa. Through the previous 84 contests, the teams played to a 41-41-2 draw. So, the winner of the Heartland Trophy will also take the overall lead in the series.

But most importantly, the winning team will find itself in position to make a run at the Big Ten championship.

"They take pride in what they do and how they do it," Maragos said. "They're going to come in, they're going to be sound, they're going to be focused and they're going to be ready to roll.

"We got to be ready to match that energy."

Lea's prediction:

Echoing the sentiments from the UW players and coaches, I fully expect a hard-fought and very physical game. Both teams are very similar in a lot of respects and it's going to come down to who handles the pressures of the game better.

UW quarterback Scott Tolzien has had two back-to-back shaky starts and the Badgers came out of those two road games with a split. But, as most of the people know who follow UW football, Tolzien has been very solid at home. I expect a bounce back game from him and more importantly the UW offensive line.

I understand Iowa has a very superb defense that will challenge Wisconsin in a variety of ways. But I feel that by playing in the confines of Camp Randall, on homecoming, following a tough loss, UW will come out ready to play and will get the win.

I feel that Clay will top the century mark and find the end zone and UW hangs on for a tight 23-17 win on its homecoming.

Lea's season record:

5-1



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