Jet-sweeping running back Melvin Gordon and the Wisconsin offense have garnered most of the attention so far this season, but some good things are happening on the defensive side as well. New head coach Gary Andersen and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda employ a multifaceted, 3-4 scheme that has helped Wisconsin rank sixth nationally in both points allowed (15.9 ppg) and yards allowed (285 ypg). Among the players adjusting to new roles and responsibilities is senior nose tackle Beau Allen, who will try to slow down Iowa's power run game Saturday as Wisconsin and Iowa renew their rivalry for the first time since 2010.
ESPN.com caught up with Allen this week to discuss the season, the matchup and, of course, Halloween.
What does Beau Allen do on a bye week?
Beau Allen: Absolutely nothing. I went home (to Minnetonka, Minn.) actually for the weekend because it was my mom's birthday. My dad's birthday is actually on Halloween. I watched a lot of football and ate a lot of football. It was glorious.
Do you have a Halloween costume picked out?
Allen: This year? No. I was thinking about doing some crazy things, maybe being a bearded lady, or I was going to be Miley Cyrus, but I'm actually not going to go trick-or-treating this year, which is kind of too bad. But if I was, I'd probably be one of those two.
Is it just too close to a game?
Allen: Yeah, just too close to a game. I've got a lot of schoolwork to do, and I'm actually going to see a movie, "Ender's Game" comes out, and I'm pretty fired up about that, because that was my favorite book.
So if you guys get a win on Saturday against Iowa, will you do a late Halloween celebration?
Allen: Yeah, probably. To be honest, I'll probably head over to the store and buy all the discounted candy. I'm trying to be frugal.
You haven't faced Iowa since your freshman year. What are you looking forward to going against the Hawkeyes again?
Allen: Obviously, it's a trophy game, and we've held the trophy the past couple years, so that's a big thing. But me personally, I'm excited because it's Big Ten football. They're a smashmouth team, they run the ball a lot, they've got powerful running backs and a good offensive line, so it's definitely a good challenge for our D-line. It's something we've been excited about.
Does Iowa remind you of your team a bit, going against your offense in practice?
Allen: Yeah, definitely. The way they run the zone is a little different, but just the philosophy of wanting to pound the ball, and then hitting the tight ends on boot and play-action and stuff like that, is definitely very similar.
Did they recruit you at all?
Allen: Yeah, I was recruited by [former Iowa defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski], who's at Nebraska now. They've had some talented D-linemen in the past. They were probably in my last four or five schools.
What put Wisconsin over the top?
Allen: I've had a lot of family connections here over the years, and I really liked the business school and the academics that I'm in right now. And just the atmosphere on game day. I felt really at home with the players.
You've had two months to play in this defense. What have you learned about the scheme, and how comfortable are you in what they're asking you to do?
Allen: I feel great with that. I love it our scheme. One thing I really like that is a little different from what we've done in the past is we have a lot of different personnel groupings. Coach Aranda does a great job of getting our personnel to match up with what the opposing offense likes to do. On game day, we'll have anywhere from five to eight different personnel groups. That puts the best players on our defense in the best positions to win. So I like that a lot.
Are there certain guys you're playing alongside now who you never did before?
Allen: So in one of our peso groups, where I'm an end, I'm playing next to a stand-up linebacker, like Joe Schobert or Vince Biegel, where I haven't played with them before. But then I'm still playing with a lot of guys I've played with in the past, like Brendan Kelly, Ethan Hemer, Tyler Dippel, Pat Muldoon, so it's a good combination of some new faces and some familiar ones.
Does what they're asking you to do change depending on the personnel grouping?
Allen: For most of the time when I'm lined up in base at nose guard, I've got my job role cut out for me, which is occupy blockers and try to keep our linebackers free. But then when we get into passing downs and stuff like that, sometimes they'll put me out into a pass rush role, which is kind of nice and refreshing for me.
Do you have any pass-rush moves you've been saving for this game?
Allen: Well, I don't want to tell you because the word might get out. But I've been saving up a spin move. I used it against Northwestern. Some people are surprised when big men hit spin moves, so been saving that bad boy.
Have you named it?
Allen: No, I haven't. Maybe I should. Got anything good? I'll work on that. Maybe the hair tornado or something like that.
You mentioned the Iowa running backs and Mark Weisman is a big guy. What will be the key to slowing him down?
Allen: I love playing bigger running backs like that. It's just getting back to tackling fundamentals. You can't really arm-tackle guys like that, especially me, if I'm on a blocker, I can't just try to reach out or he'll probably rip my arm off. You can't just expect to bring him down just by hitting him. You've got to wrap him up and get your defenders to rally and pursue the ball.
What are the keys to finishing the season strong, and what are the goals for your team? You need some help to get to the Big Ten championship.
Allen: Some of us are a little upset because we feel like we're not getting the recognition we deserve, but we can't think of it that way. We've got to practice every day the right way and play every game the right way and not try to look ahead to the end of the year. Just focus on the small daily things, and if we do that, we'll get to where we want to be at the end of the year.
Were you surprised when Wisconsin wasn't in the initial BCS standings? Has it been hard to get recognition?
Allen: Yeah, but if we just take care of our business and practice and play the way we know that we can, that will all sort itself out.