It's a battle in the Big Ten West Saturday as the 2-2 Wisconsin Badgers are in Iowa City for a matchup with the 5-2 Iowa Hawkeyes for the Heartland Trophy inside Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm EST.
The Badgers have owned this series recently, winning four straight and seven of the last eight meetings. The Hawkeyes' last win over Wisconsin came in 2015, and the last time they successfully defended their home turf against the Badgers came in 2008.
It's been an uneven season in Madison this year as the Badgers opened with two wins, scoring 40-plus points in both, but sandwiched around two cancellations. Wisconsin would then lose to Northwestern and Indiana with yet another cancellation in between, deeming them ineligible for a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game, however fleeting that chance was.
Prior to the season, conference officials decreed that a team must play a minimum of six games to qualify for the title game, and Saturday's regular-season finale would total five for the Badgers. The caveat in that ruling was that if the rest of the conference played an average of five games or less, then the standings would determine the qualifiers like normal.
The rule has been changed this week by virtue of Ohio State's matchup with Michigan getting canceled, enabling the undefeated Buckeyes to play in the title game. Wisconsin is still behind Northwestern in the Big Ten West, so the change doesn't affect the Badgers.
The Wildcats are a common theme here, as regardless of what happens in this game and Northwestern's tilt with Illinois, the Wildcats have already secured a spot in the conference title game. The Hawkeyes fell to Northwestern by a single point on Halloween, sealing their fate, though they didn't know it at the time.
Iowa has not lost since that game, reeling off five straight after opening the season with two consecutive losses. They have outscored their opponents 186-76 and are averaging 37.2 points per game during the winning streak.
Those 186 points scored over the last five games represent the best five-game stretch since the Hawkeyes totaled 207 in the first five games of 2002.
They've also played 21 straight games without surrendering 25 points, the longest streak in the nation among Power 5 teams.
Betting Line and Pick
This game opened with Iowa as 2.5-point favorites, but that line quickly evaporated, turning into a pick 'em by mid-week. As of Wednesday morning, 72% of the tickets and 65% of the money was on the Hawkeyes, with virtually all of the money being bet on the under (44.5)
Iowa is 18-4 in its last 22 rivalry trophy games (against Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa State and the Badgers), but all four of those losses came at the hands of Wisconsin. That streak should get halted Saturday.
Watch out for the quarterback-running back combo of Spencer Petras and Tyler Goodson, who both rank in the top five in passing/rushing yards in the Big Ten. Petras threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Hawkeyes to 35 unanswered points last week against Illinois, in a game they trailed 14-0.
Pick: Iowa (pick 'em).