IOWA CITY — This isn’t like boxing. The two contestants aren’t going to the podium in their underwear after weigh-in and throw punches.
If football is more civilized than one sport, it’s boxing.
So, no, Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi didn’t come out and predict a second-quarter knockout of Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. And Clayborn didn’t throw any “momma” jokes toward Carimi.
The competitors go into their matchup Saturday with an air of respect.
OK, it’s probably more a case of not wanting to give the other guy motivation. Plus, Carimi and Clayborn are fifth-year seniors. They know anything they say means zilch compared to what their play says Saturday when the No. 13 Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) play host to No. 10 Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1).
Play along. Let’s call it mutual respect.
“He is a physical rusher,” said Carimi, a 6-foot-7, 327-pounder from Cottage Grove, Wis. “I’m expecting him to try and bull me back. He is a strong pass rusher.”
There’s no secret to what Wisconsin wants to do. The Badgers and Coach Bret Bielema would love nothing more than to sit back and let running back John Clay, a 260-pounder, run straight ahead into lanes created by an O-line that averages 6-5, 319. Averages.
The Badgers did just that against then-No. 1 Ohio State last weekend in Madison.
For Clayborn (6-3, 285), it’s another giant matchup. Literally.
“You shouldn’t approach it differently, but going against a guy like this, you have to step up every game and bring all you got or you’ll get thrown on your butt,” Clayborn said. Asked if that happened last season, he said, “Not that I remember, but I bet if I go look at the film, probably.”
This is a matchup that demands attention. It’ll be front and center for NFL scouts in Kinnick Stadium. It reverberates through both football complexes.
“Yeah, he’s a pretty good player,” UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. “Clayborn is a hell of a player. Size, speed, quickness and a motor. So you get all that physical stuff and he plays the game.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, an NFL O-line coach with the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens organization for six seasons, sees NFL in Carimi.
“He’s got great size,” Ferentz said.
“He’s a veteran player and we’ve seen him a lot. He’s got size, athletic, and he plays and competes.”
Carimi was less than 100 percent against the Hawkeyes last season in Madison, a 20-10 Iowa victory.
He injured a shoulder the week before against Ohio State and was easier to drive off the ball, Carimi said.
“The first play I was hesitant and I fell and reinjured it. I had to grind through the whole game,” Carimi said. “I didn’t practice that whole week. I put on pads but I didn’t hit anyone.
“That was the roughest game by far.”
Clayborn has been as disruptive this season as ever, especially seeing three blockers go his way at times. The disruption is there; the numbers aren’t.
Clayborn was among Big Ten leaders in sacks and tackles for loss last season. This year, he’s third on the Hawkeyes with 5 tackles for loss and tied for third with 1.5 sacks.
It’s not something that gets to Clayborn. His pat answer is “ask the other team how I played.”