Oct. 19, 2010
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kirk Ferentz isn’t looking at the Big Ten Conference football standings and he hopes the Hawkeye players aren’t, either. What the University of Iowa head coach sees now is another tough game against a nationally ranked opponent.
Ferentz met the media Tuesday afternoon inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex as the No. 12 Hawkeyes (5-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) prepare to host No. 10 Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) on Saturday with a 2:36 p.m. kickoff. The game will be televised nationally by ABC and ESPN.
“I’m not looking at the race; I hope our players aren’t,” Ferentz said. “To me, there is no race yet. We’re two games into it…tortoise and the hare and all that stuff; it’s a long race. And right now I know we have a tough game Saturday, that’s as far as I’ve looked.”
Iowa is one of three undefeated teams in the league (Michigan State and Purdue are the others). After dropping its league-opener at Michigan State, Wisconsin bounced back to defeat Minnesota and No. 1 Ohio State, 31-18, last week in Madison.
“It means they’re pretty good, that’s all I know,” Ferentz said. “It does mean that, because that was not a fluke.”
This will be the 86th meeting between the two teams with Iowa leading the series 42-41-2. The Hawkeyes, who have won two in a row and 6 of 8, lead the series in Iowa City, 24-15-1. Also on the line is the Heartland Trophy, a 30-by-36-inch statue of a bull that goes to the game’s winner. When the conference switches to two divisions next season, Iowa and Wisconsin will be in different divisions and will no longer play annually.
“I’m not looking at the race; I hope our players aren’t. To me, there is no race yet. We’re two games into it…tortoise and the hare and all that stuff; it’s a long race. And right now I know we have a tough game Saturday, that’s as far as I’ve looked.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
“To me the game is important regardless. If we weren’t playing for a trophy, it would still be a very, very significant importance,” Ferentz said. “All it means is that trophy’s going to sit somewhere for a little bit longer. But I don’t think anybody’s going to be thinking about that on Saturday.”
The game will feature one of the Big Ten’s top defensive lines in Iowa against one of the top offensive lines in Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes allow a league-low 83.8 yards on the ground and Wisconsin is second in the league and 12th in the country with 232.7 rushing yards per game. According to team rosters, Iowa’s defensive line weighs in at more than 40 pounds less per person (278.3) than Wisconsin’s offensive line (320).
“They’re gigantic, that jumps right at you,” Ferentz said. “That is the major difference between our two teams. Their size compared to ours is a pretty significant difference. But more importantly, they’re good, they play well and they’re veteran. They’ve been together quite some time.”
As the all-time series indicates, the Iowa-Wisconsin battle has been a dandy through the seasons. Because of conference realignment, the intensity of the rivalry could dim in the future.
“It’s been a great series, and I would expect this to be a really hard fought game and be a tough football game,” Ferentz said. “It’s going to be different and there’s no way to please everybody. This is going to seem really, really strange and different to everybody — it’s probably unfortunate. But, again, we would have been saying the same about another game if this one had continued.”
UI senior fullback Brett Morse is expected back for Saturday. He will practice without contact Tuesday and return at full strength the rest of the week.
Ferentz said it is less likely senior middle linebacker Jeff Tarpinian will play.