Iowa football notebook: Badgers upbeat, Ferentz hopeful on injuries
How much gas do Wisconsin players have in their proverbial tanks as they try to get up for yet another big game?
That’s one of the big questions surrounding Saturday's 11 a.m., ESPN-televised Big Ten Conference showdown between the 10th-ranked Badgers and Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. Only a few tickets remained as of Monday afternoon.
Of course, the Badgers (4-2 overall, 1-2) won't say anything except they're excited to face the Hawkeyes (5-2, 3-1), especially after losing the Heartland Trophy battle 10-6 last season.
But Wisconsin's last three games — road trips to then-No. 8 Michigan State and now-No. 4 Michigan, then Saturday’s home, overtime thriller against No. 2 Ohio State — certainly can’t be ignored.
Wisconsin won one of the two, throttling the Spartans, 30-6, and lost the others by a touchdown. That leaves the Badgers battle-tested, but with little margin for error in the Big Ten West.
They sound encouraged, not defeated.
“We’ve learned a lot from this run, these three games,” newly named Big Ten defensive player of the week Jack Cichy said Monday. “I think we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and what we’re capable of. … I think it’s going to give us a good start for the Big Ten West that starts this week.”
It’s crazy to think that it’s almost November, and yet Wisconsin has yet to play a divisional game.
A new scheduling gauntlet of six West Division games in a row starts for Wisconsin this week in Iowa City, then at home Oct. 29 against division-leading, unbeaten Nebraska.
“We saw it (before the season), and we were excited to get after it,” Cichy said of the relentless schedule that also included the season-opener vs. LSU at Lambeau Field. “We knew it was going to come with adversity — whether it’d be a play, whether it’d be a game, whether it’d be a series. We knew adversity was going to strike.”
A loss Saturday at Iowa, and it’d be difficult for the Badgers to win the West even by running the table to finish 6-3 in conference play.
“We’re just going to keep on pushing forward,” wide receiver Jazz Peavy said. “We’re in a very good position right now. We all know our potential as a team and how far we can really go. I feel like we’re in a great spot.”
Iowa released its game-week depth chart Monday, and two key players who got hurt during Saturday’s 49-35 win at Purdue were listed.
George Kittle (whose right foot was in a boot afterward) was listed as the No. 1 tight end, and Boone Myers (who sprained his right ankle late) was listed as the No. 1 left tackle. Right tackle Cole Croston, who missed the Purdue game with a left leg injury, was not on the depth chart.
During his Sunday interview with the university's website, Ferentz addressed the injury worries.
“The good news, X-rays were all negative on all three guys,” Ferentz said. “It’s just a matter of how they’re feeling. I wouldn’t want to handicap it at this point. But you’re always concerned when guys have sprains.
“I don’t know if we’ll have all three of them. But hopefully we’ll have at least one or two of them ready to go.”
Redshirt freshman Levi Paulsen has become a new name to know, and he's now listed as the top backup at right guard and right tackle. If Myers and Croston are out, Paulsen might be in line for his first career start.
One other depth-chart note: Weak-side linebacker Aaron Mends is no longer listed. He was on the No. 1 line entering fall camp but lost the starting spot to Bo Bower and had been a co-No. 2 at that position with freshman Amani Jones. Now, sophomore Jack Hockaday is listed as the only backup at the middle and weak-side positions.
Ferentz and players have their weekly media availability on Tuesday. Stay tuned.