Game 10: Indiana Hoosiers at Wisconsin Badgers (preview)

Wisconsin Badgers

2010 record:  8-1 (4-1)

2009 record: 10-3 (5-3), beat Miami in Champs Sports Bowl

2010 Sagarin: 17

2009 Sagarin: 23

Coach: Bret Bielema (5th season, 38-14)

Series: Wisconsin leads 36-18-2

TV: noon, ESPN2

Blog: Bucky's Fifth Quarter

Indiana attempts to cling to its hopes for bowl eligibility against Wisconsin, which remains in the hunt for the Rose Bowl.  The Badgers beat Ohio State but lost to Michigan State, and it's not at all far-fetched to imagine a 3-way tie atop the Big Ten at 7-1, among Wisconsin, Michigan State, and the winner of the Ohio State-Iowa game.  The Badgers have dominated the IU series over most of the last two decades.  IU won five in a row against the then-horrible Badgers from 1986-1992, but since the Badgers' Rose Bowl season of 1993, Wisconsin has defeated Indiana 11 times in 13 tries.  The only exceptions came in 2001.  In one of the most stunningly good performances in Hoosier history, IU beat Wisconsin 63-32 at Camp Randall.  The next season, Gerry DiNardo's first IU team upset a ranked Wisconsin team for its only Big Ten win.  Other than that, it's been all Wisconsin.

Last year's game was the opposite of most of IU's Big Ten games.  Instead of blowing a big lead, the Hoosiers mounted a big comeback, but lost 31-28.  The Hoosiers' comeback was aided by an injury to UW's star running back, John Clay.  Clay is among the best backs in the country, averaging 103 yards per game, 5.4 yards per carry, and has scored 13 touchdowns.  His understudy, Montee Ball, played well last year against IU and has run for 346 yards and 6 touchdowns.  James White has run for 579 yards and 9 touchdowns.  Yes, that's 29 touchdowns by the Badgers top three running backs. 

The Badgers are the Badgers.  They feature a punishing running attack, a little-used but efficient passing game, and a punishing defense.  Quarterback Scott Tolzien is averaging only 187 yards per game, but he completed 71 percent of his passes and has thrown 9 TDs to 5 INTs.  The Badgers defense allows only 19 points per game and is #22 nationally in total defense.  The rush defense is the strength of the team.  IU's defense has improved, but tomorrow's game will not be a great opportunity for the struggling offense to rediscover its magic.

IU is a three touchdown underdog, and that's a pretty fair assessment.  The Hoosiers, while not technically in a must win situation, must win one of the next two games for the Bucket game to be played for anything more than bragging rights (Purdue's best chance to get to five wins is tomorrow, against Michigan).  My prediction is that the Hoosiers will continue to tease us.  The offense will surprise, and the team will show up, but in the end, the result will be a 6th Big Ten loss.  That will set up a two game "playoff," with IU needing wins against both Penn State and Purdue to qualify for a bowl game.  Wisconsin 34, Indiana 24.

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