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Sports writers Chad Leistikow and Dan Lawhon break down Iowa's first and biggest conference match up against Wisconsin. Michael Zamora, mzamora@dmreg.com

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It's Iowa vs. Wisconsin. It's likely for Big Ten West supremacy. 

Honestly, you don't need much more of a preamble: This is a big bleeping game.

So here's a little more about the expected starters for the Hawkeyes heading into Saturday's 7:30 p.m. showdown:

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OFFENSE

Quarterback: Nate Stanley (6-foot-4, 242 pounds, junior) — Exhale. That 23-for-28 effort last week proves he hasn't forgotten how to efficiently play quarterback. This week provides the real test.

Running back: Toren Young (5-11, 221, sophomore) — Young proved more than capable in handling No. 1 positional duties in Ivory Kelly-Martin's absence last week, rushing for 82 yards on 14 carries while sharing time with Mekhi Sargent.

Fullback: Brady Ross (6-0, 245, Jr.) — A rush and a reception last week. We're a touchdown away from living the fullback dream. All five touches from Ross this season have gone for first downs.

Tight end: Noah Fant (6-5, 241, Jr.) — It's hard to imagine the Hawkeyes triumphing without Fant having a substantial day. He's got nine touchdowns in his last 10 games at Kinnick Stadium.

Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (6-5, 250, Soph.) — The last "big game" at Kinnick treated all the Hawkeyes kindly. Especially so for Hockenson, who set career highs in yards (71), receptions (five) and touchdowns (two) against Ohio State in 2017. 

Split end: Brandon Smith (6-3, 219, Soph.) — There probably isn't a better contender on offense for someone who needs a breakout game more than Smith. Just three catches and 54 yards in three games in 2018.

Wide receiver: Nick Easley (5-11, 205, senior) — A career day in receptions (10) and yards (103) last week against Northern Iowa — it's safe to say Easley is healthy now.

Left tackle: Alaric Jackson (6-7, 320, Soph.) — The Iowa offensive line faces a stiff challenge overall from the Wisconsin defense (11th in FBS). But the Badgers are a bit vulnerable in the rushing game, ranking 48th in the country.

Left guard: Ross Reynolds (6-4, 295, Sr.) — Reynolds' fifth start as a Hawkeye will provide his greatest pressure and challenge.

Center: Keegan Render (6-4, 307, Sr.) — Render played left guard last season against Wisconsin, when the offense gained a dismal  66 yards.

Right guard: Dalton Ferguson (6-4, 308, Sr.) — New starter. New father. Life's pretty good at the moment for Ferguson. 

Right tackle: Tristan Wirfs (6-5, 320, Soph.) — Wirfs spoke several times this offseason of his pride in his toughness. A battle of strength and wills is coming against the Badgers.

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DEFENSE

Left end: Anthony Nelson (6-7, 271, Jr.) — You almost have to laugh when you look at how good Iowa's rush defense is. Just 42 yards per game allowed, tied for second in the country with Air Force behind Michigan State.

Left tackle: Sam Brincks (6-5, 275, Sr.) — The defensive line as a whole faces another giant test in the ground game this week against Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor.

Right tackle: Matt Nelson (6-8, 295, Sr.) — Production this season more about plugging gaps than denting the stat sheet, but he has eight stops and a sack so far in 2018.

Right end: Parker Hesse (6-3, 261, Sr.) — Hesse was beaming after completing the Cy-Hawk sweep a couple weeks ago. Putting the Heartland Trophy back in the Iowa case would be another senior rivalry accomplishment.

Outside linebacker: Nick Niemann (6-4, 232, Soph.) —The fire was burning after the defense lost a late shutout bid last week against Northern Iowa. “We didn’t finish the game we wanted to. ... Not too happy about that,” he said. 

Middle linebacker: Jack Hockaday (6-1, 235, Sr.) — Continues to impress as an in-season starter switch. He's tied for the team lead in tackles (19).

Weak-side linebacker: Kristian Welch (6-3, 238, Jr.) — Shares that team lead in tackles with Hockaday and is back atop the depth chart. He's been playing ping pong at the position with Djimon Colbert. 

Left cornerback: Matt Hankins (6-1, 185, Soph.) — Another career-high tackling day for a member of the defensive. Hankins had eight last week.

Strong safety: Amani Hooker (6-0, 210, Jr.) — In a similar big-game situation last year against Penn State, Hooker was a star in his first career start, recording 13 tackles against Penn State.

Free safety: Jake Gervase (6-1, 212, Sr.) — He had three solo tackles among his four-tackle effort against the Panthers last week. He'll be making his 10th consecutive start.

Right cornerback: Michael Ojemudia (6-1, 199, Jr.) — He made his first career interception last week, returning a second-quarter pick 29 yards.

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SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Miguel Recinos (6-1, 193, Sr.) — Hawkeye lore has its fair share of clutch kicking moments against ranked teams. Houghtlin. Duncan. ... Recinos? Bound to be another close game Saturday, so we'll see.

Punter: Colten Rastetter (6-1, 213, Jr.) — We've reached unknown territory with the punting game: quiet acceptance. A 45.4-yard average in 10 boots this season is just fine.

Kickoff and punt returns: Kyle Groeneweg (5-10, 186, Sr.) — Groeneweg could also see some action on jet sweep attempts if the Hawkeyes look to spread the Wisconsin defense wide.

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WISCONSIN PROJECTED STARTERS

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Alex Hornibrook (6-4, 219, Jr.)

Running back: Jonathan Taylor (5-11, 221, Soph.)

Fullback: Alec Ingold (6-2, 242, Sr.)

Wide receiver: Kendric Pryor (5-11, 181, Soph.)

Wide receiver: A.J. Taylor (5-11, 203, Jr.)

Tight end: Zander Neuville (6-5, 252, Sr.)*

Left tackle: Jon Dietzen (6-6, 323, Jr.) OR Cole Van Lanen (6-5, 311, Soph.)

Left guard: Michael Deiter (6-6, 310, Sr.)

Center: Tyler Biadasz (6-3, 319, Soph.)

Right guard: Beau Benzschawel (6-6, 315, Sr.)

Right tackle: David Edwards (6-7, 315, Sr.)

DEFENSE

Defensive end: Isaiahh Loudermilk (6-, 300, Soph.) 

Defensive end: Kayden Lyles  (6-3, 323, freshman)

Nose tackle: Olive Sagapolu (6-2, 342, Sr.)

Outside linebacker: Andrew Van Ginkel (6-4, 236, Sr.)*

Outside linebacker: Zack Baun (6-3, 230, Jr.)

Inside linebacker: T.J. Edwards (6-1, 242, Sr.)

Inside linebacker: Ryan Connelly (6-3, 237, Sr.)

Cornerback: Caesar Williams (6-0, 185, Soph.)

Cornerback: Faion Hicks (5-10, 184, Fr.)

Strong safety: D'Cota Dixon (5-10, 198, Sr.)

Free safety: Scott Nelson (6-2, 202, Fr.)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kickoffs: Zach Hintze (6-0, 186, Jr.)

Field goals: Rafael Gaglianone (5-11, 238, Sr.)

Punter: Anthony Lotti (6-0, 187, Jr.)

Kick returner: Kendric Pryor (5-11, 181, Soph.)

Punt returner: Jack Dunn (5-7, 172, Soph.)

*Play may be limited due to injury. 

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