They might not exactly be the Big Ten’s version of identical twins.
You won’t find a starting offensive lineman on the Iowa roster bigger than 300 pounds. You won’t find one smaller than 313 on Wisconsin’s.
The Hawkeyes have the weight of their running game on the shoulders of a 5-foot-9 tailback who is generously listed at 205 pounds. The Badgers divide the bulk of their carries amongst a 255-pound tank and a speedy true freshman.
Iowa’s wide receivers have 11 touchdown catches this season. Wisconsin’s have one.
But the programs share a lot of the same football genetics. They recruit a lot of the same territories, pursue many of the same players and each roster is sprinkled with players the other program wanted.
The Hawkeyes and Badgers stuck to their pro-style principles when many of the other teams in the league followed the spread offense craze, and the foundation of both programs is based on fundamentals and physicality rather than fancy schemes and deception.
“A team that comes to practice each day in sweats is a little bit different than a team like Wisconsin, ourselves and some other teams around the Big Ten that come to practice in full pads during the week and hit each other a little bit and prepare by practicing physical and playing physical,” Iowa linebacker Tyler Nielsen said.
Those core values have made No. 13 Iowa (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) and 10th-ranked Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) two of the early leading contenders for the Big Ten title going into Saturday’s 2:36 p.m. showdown at Kinnick Stadium.
“They’re not going to switch their style, and we’re not going to switch our style,” Iowa junior strong safety Tyler Sash said. “It’s going to come down to playing team football, and whoever makes the least amount of mistakes is probably going to win the game.”
The Hawkeyes and Badgers have gotten to this point with many of the same philosophies fostered by the same football lineage. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez and current Badgers coach Bret Bielema are all products of the Hayden Fry coaching tree.
“When I look at their football team, I think there are a lot of parallels to what we do and vice versa,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “I had tremendous respect for Barry when I came here. And Bret has done a great job of carrying that on. Barry and I probably both learned an awful lot from coach Fry.
“Not that we’re the same as, but some of the things that we believe are important. I think that’s been reflected in their play. And Bret comes out of that same family tree, so there is probably a common bond there with all of us.”
The Hawkeyes and Badgers aren’t identical. Wisconsin’s starting offensive line weighs in at 1,600 pounds and has 115 career starts. Iowa’s checks in at 1,458 pounds and 65 starts.
Iowa’s running game has been a one-man committee for most of this season. Adam Robinson has 129 of the 186 running back carries (69 percent) for the Hawkeyes this season and has lugged all 59 during the past two weeks.
The Badgers started the season with a three-pronged attack at running back, but bruiser John Clay and freshman James White have handled all of the carries for Wisconsin since conference play started. Clay, the Big Ten offensive player of the year last season, has 796 yards and 11 touchdowns.
White was on Iowa’s recruiting board last fall. The former Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas star made an official visit last September and watched the Hawkeyes beat Arizona. At the time, Iowa already had a commitment from Marcus Coker and De’Andre Johnson committed to the Hawkeyes a week later.
“We had good feelings about both players, and De’Andre was probably ready to make a decision faster than James,” Ferentz said. “They’re both good, young men and good players.”
White has made an instant impact for the Badgers. He leads Wisconsin with 907 all-purpose yards and has nine of his team’s 24 rushing touchdowns.
“I think our offenses are both very similar styles,” Sash said. “We’ll pound the ball, pound the ball, pound the ball and then we’ll play-action you and try to get one over your head. We practice against our offense all camp and they’re very similar.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football