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Wisconsin Football vs. Iowa Game Could Determine Big Ten West Winner



Wisconsin Badgers Football receiver Chimere Dike vs. Iowa
Iowa defensive back Kaevon Merriweather (26) tackles Wisconsin wide receiver Chimere Dike (13) during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. 221112 Wisc Iowa Fb 034 Jpg

It’s not common when a Week 7 game decides the outcome of a conference division, but that’s exactly what could happen when Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin Badgers football team hosts Iowa this weekend.

The Big Ten West has a history of being subpar, at least compared to the other side of the conference. The heavy hitters out of the Big Ten Conference reside in the East division. Naturally, that usually allows teams like Wisconsin, Iowa, and every great once in a while, Northwestern, to make a conference championship game appearance with solid, but not always great teams.

With the Big Ten expanding next year, this is the final season with divisions. And there has not been a more Big Ten West season than this one.

Here are the current Big Ten West standings heading through six weeks, with Wisconsin football sitting on top.

Wisconsin 4-1 (2-0)
Iowa 5-1 (2-1)
Northwestern 3-3 (1-2)
Minnesota 3-3 (1-2)
Nebraska 3-3 (1-2)
Purdue 2-4 (1-2)
Illinois 2-4 (0-3)

Obviously, there is still a long way to go. There is still more than half the season to play but with the way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if Wisconsin and/or Iowa ended up pulling away from the rest of the teams in the West.

How the Big Ten West Has Shaped Up So Far

Northwestern’s record looks better than they probably are. Two of their three wins are over UTEP and Howard. Their lone conference win was a big comeback over Minnesota where the Gophers absolutely collapsed. They still need to play Iowa and Wisconsin this season along with Maryland from the East division. They may be in third now, but I don’t see how they don’t end up as a bottom two or three team by the end of the year.

The Gophers — woof. Some expectations for Minnesota was a Big Ten Championship Game berth or to finish at least in the top two or three in the division. But they have played three conference games total and stand at 1-2. Granted, their latest defeat was from No. 2 Michigan, but it was a whooping. They narrowly defeated Nebraska in Week 1 at home in a game the Huskers just gave away. Then, they go to Northwestern and blow a big second-half lead. Their brutal schedule still includes games against Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. They haven’t shown enough for me to think they will even be in the top half of the division by the time the season ends.

Nebraska just picked up their first conference win against Illinois this past weekend. Coach Rhule might be the guy to finally turn the program around, but after what Scott Frost did with it, it might take some time. I don’t think the Huskers are going to be the team that will get hot and reel off five or six more wins. They still have to play Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan State, and Purdue this year.

Wisconsin already has a leg up on Purdue after defeating them 38-17 in Week 4. The Boilermakers did the Badgers a favor in beating Illinois the next week, but then they lost to Iowa last week. Purdue still has Ohio State and Michigan on their schedule. At this point, you can stick a fork in the Boilermakers’ chances at winning the West.

Illinois has been a big disappointment for many this year. After a breakout 2022 season, many thought the Illini were on the rise, especially after bringing former Wisconsin football coach, Jim Leonhard, in. But the Illini are off to a 0-3 start in conference play with games against Maryland, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa still to come.

Wisconsin Football Will Be In the Driver’s Seat With a Win Over Iowa

So that leaves Wisconsin and Iowa as the only teams in the division with a winning record in the conference.

After the game this week, the Hawkeyes will face Minnesota, Northwestern, Rutgers, Illinois, and Nebraska. They will be home in four of those five games. Their lone road game is against the Huskers and that game is in the final week of the season. Not necessarily a daunting schedule.

The Wisconsin Badgers football team needs to win this game.

Luckily, the Hawkeye offense looks a lot like they did last year. Losing Cade McNamara to a knee injury was a huge blow for them. Former Wisconsin quarterback Deacon Hill has come on in relief but hasn’t really been lighting it up. Last week against Purdue, Hill went 6-21 for 110 yards with one touchdown and an interception. The Wisconsin defense is going to have to get to him early and often to keep him uncomfortable.

The Wisconsin offense vs. Iowa defense is going to be the matchup of the game.

Iowa’s defense may not be as stout as they were last year, but they are still a solid group. Through six games, they are allowing 16.3 points per game, good for fifth-best in the conference. They also give up just 324.5 total yards (6th), 131.2 rushing yards (9th), and 193.3 passing yards (6th) per game. Running the ball is going to be a key for the Badgers to win the game.

If Wisconsin football can defeat Iowa, they would be the only team in the division with a winning record. Iowa would slide to 2-2 and the Badgers would have a comfy 1.5-game lead.

A win and tiebreaker over the Hawkeyes is going to be huge for the Badgers. With Ohio State looming in the next few weeks, the Badgers will need as big of a cushion as they can get. A loss to OSU wouldn’t end their chances, but it likely wouldn’t allow them to make another mistake with how weak Iowa’s remaining schedule is.

So while the Wisconsin Badgers football team is just six weeks into the season, their goal of winning the Big Ten West may already be on the line in Week 7 at home against Iowa.

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Christian Borman was born and raised in Wisconsin and covers the Badgers football and basketball programs, plus some recruiting for He previously covered the Wisconsin Badgers for years as the site expert for Badger of Honor of the Fansided Network.