Sometimes you just have knuckle down and win an ugly game. No. 8 Wisconsin (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten) did just that on Saturday against No. 20 Iowa (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) by coming through for a gritty 38-14 victory on the strength of its defense. The only points scored by Iowa came from cornerback Joshua Jackson, and Wisconsin held Iowa to just 56 yards of offense. The win for Wisconsin clinched a return trip to the Big Ten championship game.
Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook was picked off twice by Jackson, and each time the interception was returned for a touchdown. It was the only way Iowa would manage to score in this one as the offense never got anything going against a stingy Wisconsin defense. Iowa forced two additional Wisconsin turnovers but Iowa could not take advantage of the opportunities unless Jackson was the one getting his hands on the football on defense. Wisconsin’s defense even got in on the scoring with a fumble return for a touchdown by Leon Jacobs. Another Iowa turnover also led to a Wisconsin score in the fourth quarter as the Badgers continued to pad their lead. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor continued to show why he is the Big Ten’s leading rusher with 158 yards on the ground.
A week after lighting up the Buckeyes, Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley completed just eight of his 23 pass attempts for 41 yards.
Here’s the thing with Wisconsin. They’re a pretty darn good team. They tend to be well coached by Paul Chryst. They don’t do many things in a sexy fashion, but they haven’t had to either. The schedule is what the schedule is, and it is fair to analyze that when comparing what Wisconsin has accomplished against what other playoff contenders have accomplished so far. And it is still fair to suggest other teams have a more impressive overall body of work too, conceding that an undefeated season does not necessarily have to mean you have been more impressive thana one-loss team or even, perhaps, a two-loss team.
But Wisconsin is doing exactly what it needs to do to achieve its first goal, which is winning the Big Ten. If the Badgers get to 12-0 with a shot at the Big Ten championship, they will absolutely be worthy of playoff consideration entering the conference title game. Anyone who argues against that is just being dismissive. This Wisconsin team is good. They might even be able to score a point in the College Football Playoff should they be fortunate enough to make it that far. For now, Chryst and Wisconsin will just focus on taking care of what they can and then letting the playoff committee do their job to determine if they are worthy or not at the end of the season.
For Wisconsin, it is on to next week to work on getting to 11-0. To do that, they will have to win one more game at home. Wisconsin will host Michigan next week in the home finale for the Badgers. The Wolverines could be tricky after seemingly discovered how to play some offense the last couple of weeks.
Iowa will return home for their home finale as well. The Hawkeyes host Purdue next week.