MADISON, Wis. — The Big Ten game between No. 20 Iowa and No. 8 Wisconsin will offer an intriguing quarterback matchup between Hawkeyes sophomore Nate Stanley and Badgers sophomore Alex Hornibrook.
Wisconsin (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) hosts Iowa (6-3, 3-3) on Saturday in a West Division game at Camp Randall Stadium.
Stanley, a native of Menomonie, Wis., is no stranger to Badgers coach Paul Chryst, who recruited and made an offer to the 6-foot-5 standout when he was the head coach at Pittsburgh.
Chryst wound up departing Pitt for Wisconsin, and Stanley made a commitment to the Hawkeyes during his sophomore season in high school.
Stanley, in his first season as a starter at Iowa, has thrown for 1,929 yards, with 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s fresh off a five-TD effort in Iowa’s 55-24 victory over then-No. 6 Ohio State.
“He’s done a nice job of continuing to grow and develop,” Chryst said. “It looks to me like he’s playing with confidence. He’s tough and he’s a really good quarterback.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he’s been particularly pleased with Stanley’s poise and toughness. Stanley, a true freshman in 2016, was the primary backup to C.J. Beathard last season.
“When things go wrong, it doesn’t seem to rock his world,” Ferentz said. “I’m sure it does internally, but he doesn’t show that. And then most importantly, he comes back and plays on the next play.
“That’s a tough position for anybody that fragile. Any position is, but that one especially because everyone has got an opinion about what he does and how he plays.”
Hornibrook has passed for 1,218 yards, with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has been intercepted in six straight games, including two INTs against Purdue and Northwestern. Despite that, he’s 12th nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 158.3.
It helps to have a powerful run game, led by true freshman Jonathan Taylor, who has 1,368 rushing yards and is averaging 7.2 yards per carry.
Chryst said Hornibrook isn’t happy with miscues but has shown the ability to move on.
“When that happens, he gets frustrated,” Chryst said. “He doesn’t want to do that. He’s done a nice job of bouncing back and being mentally tough as much as physically tough. I thought he showed good toughness last game, in both those areas.”
Wisconsin ascended one spot to No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and Iowa debuted at No. 20 in the poll released Tuesday night.
The Badgers need to win out to put themselves in contention for a CFP playoff berth. A win against Iowa will also give Wisconsin a share of the Big Ten West Division title.
The game marks the 91st meeting between the teams. The opponents share a rivalry that doesn’t need much explanation to the players.
And Chryst said the Hawkeyes’ win over the Buckeyes didn’t raise eyebrows in the Badgers locker room.
“They’re going to grab our attention,” Chryst said. “It didn’t all of a sudden become, ‘Whoa! I didn’t know that was in them,’ when you saw that. This group knows when you get to this week it’s a big week.”
The Badgers will attempt to keep its record unblemished without two key players.
Sophomore wide receiver Quintez Cephus is out indefinitely with a right leg injury. Cephus, who suffered the injury in the Badgers’ win at Indiana last week, is the team’s leader in receiving yards (501) and touchdown catches (six), and he is tied with senior tight end Troy Fumagalli for the team lead in catches (30).
Wisconsin sophomore inside linebacker Chris Orr (left leg) also will be on the sideline for the Badgers.
Meanwhile, Ferentz said one of the biggest challenges is the Badgers defense. Wisconsin ranks ninth nationally, giving up 13.3 points per game and is fifth in total defense, allowing 267.8 yards per game.
During the 2017 season, the Badgers have allowed 12 touchdowns and held seven of nine opponents to less than 300 yards of total offense.
Iowa posted 243 rushing yards and 487 total yards in its win over Ohio State.
“It’s a unique system, and just like they run the football very well on offense, they stop the run defensively and make it really tough for you to gain yards; but more importantly it’s tough to score against them, and that’s been a challenge for us,” Ferentz said.
“It’s been a challenge for pretty much anybody that plays them.”Let's