Hlas column: Wisconsin-Iowa is Powerball personified

Published: October 17 2010 | 2:45 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 6:36 am in
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Few weeks of anticipation are ever as good as this one if you’re an Iowa football fan.

* It’s border-rival Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium. That in itself is usually pretty good. But ...

* The Badgers are ranked 10th in the nation and coming off a 31-18 win over then-No. 1 Ohio State in Madison.

* An Iowa win would set up a home showdown with Michigan State the following Saturday that almost surely would be for the outright Big Ten lead and the driver’s seat for the league title.

* Wisconsin doesn’t run some new-world, out-of-place offense like the kind Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez threw at Iowa Saturday in the Hawkeyes’ 38-28 win.

Seeing that kind of unconventional attack combined with such mediocre defensive talent at Michigan was jarring in my first visit to the Big House in the Rodriguez era. That wasn’t Michigan football. That wasn’t Big Ten football.

Saturday in Kinnick is Big Ten football, my cold-climate friends. The kind of ball Iowa likes best. The kind Wisconsin likes best. This is the Badgers’ mammoth and skilled offensive line against Iowa’s heralded defensive front.

It’s macho, cave man stuff.

This is the Badgers running John Clay (power) and James White (quickness) against a defense that hasn’t let a running back get more than 56 yards this year.

Unless you call Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson a running back, anyhow.

Of course, Iowa hasn’t faced a running back this year like junior Clay, who ran for five yards a carry against Ohio State. Or freshman White, who has averaged seven yards per carry.

White was superb in the Badgers’ game-clinching touchdown drive against Ohio State in the fourth quarter, including the 12-yard touchdown run that capped it.

Clay is seventh in the nation in rushing and already has over 3,000 career yards, yet there are those who think White is actually the better back.

Clay and White teamed for 179 rushing yards against the Buckeyes, 100 more than OSU had been allowing per game.

But Wisconsin does have a Big Ten blemish, a 34-24 loss at Michigan State. The Spartans amassed 444 yards that day, 175 on the ground. And they won despite making three turnovers to Wisconsin’s none.

So while the Badgers were red-clad King Kongs Saturday night in Madison, they wear the same mortality everyone else in college football dons.

Which is why I’ll tone down any more talk about the potential importance of next week’s MSU-Iowa game. If the last two weeks of college football (Down goes ‘Bama! Down go the Buckeyes!) have taught us anything, it’s that looking ahead is a good way to trip over something.

After all, it was very easy to find Oct. 3 bowl projections that pitted Ohio State against Alabama in the BCS title game.

At the other end of the spectrum, Minnesota fired coach Tim Brewster Sunday.

Gophers Athletic Director Joel Maturi hired Brewster. It was a curious choice from the get-go given nothing in Brewster’s resume suggested “Major college head coach.”

Six conference wins and 21 losses later, Maturi sacked Brewster in midseason.

“I realize that my neck’s on the line,’’ Maturi said in 2007 when he unveiled Brewster to the Twin Cities.

Yet, the AD responsible for setting Gophers football back at least a few years still has his job. Today.

But that’s Minnesota’s problem. Its two Big Ten border pals, Wisconsin and Iowa, have a different sort of serious business to sort out this week.

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