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How and what to watch for Wisconsin vs. No. 16 Iowa

This week the No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes hope snap a four-game losing streak to the Wisconsin Badgers and return the Heartland Trophy to Iowa City in the process.

Nebraska v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

The No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes have dropped their last four meetings with the Wisconsin Badgers. For that to change, the Hawkeyes will have to overcome one of the nation’s top defenses.

Since the days of Barry Alvarez roaming the sidelines, Wisconsin has regularly fielded some of the best defensive units in college football. That hasn’t changed this season, with the Badgers ranking second nationally in Football Outsiders’ defensive F+ metric, falling behind only Clemson. Linebacker Jack Sanborn and defensive back Eric Burrell lead the group with major contributions coming from young linebackers Leon Chenal and Nick Herbig.

For Iowa to put a dent in that defense, they will need solid outings from the tailback tandem of Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson along with improved play from quarterback Spencer Petras. The Hawkeyes’ ground attack has not encountered too many issues during this truncated season, but Petras’ play has largely fluctuated between mediocre and outright poor. Still, he comes off easily his strongest performance of the season — 18-of-28 for 220 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions — suggesting the sophomore might have turned the corner.

The play of redshirt freshman signal-caller Graham Mertz also bears monitoring. Since delivering an effectively perfect game against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the season opener, Mertz has looked far more mortal, throwing more interceptions (four) than touchdowns (three) in the time since.

Game Time/TV Channel/Streaming

You can watch Wisconsin versus Iowa on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, or you can stream it via or the FOX Sports GO app with a cable or streaming service login.

Point Spread, Totals, Odds, Trends

Point spread: Wisconsin -2
Point Total: 41.5
Money line: Wisconsin -122, Iowa +102

  • Since 2015, Wisconsin has a road record of 18-19-0 against the spread (15-16-0 as the road favorite).
  • Also during that period, the Badgers have an over record of 13-14-0 on the road (11-10-0 as the road favorite).
  • Since 2015, Iowa has a home record of 17-19-2 against the spread (3-3-1 as home underdog).
  • During the same stretch, the Hawkeyes have an over record of 15-22-1 at home (2-5-0 as home underdog).

Betting splits

Wisconsin: (55% of handle, 33% percent of bets)
Iowa: (45% of handle, 67% percent of bets)

The Best Bet

Mertz has stalled since his banger of a debut, and Iowa has dealt with its own offensive issues throughout the season.

Pick: Under 41.5

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