2010 record: 11-2 (7-1), lost to TCU in Rose Bowl
Coach: Bret Bielema (6th season, 49-16)
Series: Wisconsin leads 37-18-2
TV: noon, channel TBA
Blogs: Bucky's Fifth Quarter
The Hoosiers will return to the scene of their most humiliating defeat of the 2010 season, and perhaps one of the worst of all time, when they head to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison to play Wisconsin. Last year, Wisconsin defeated the Hoosiers 83-20. It was the high water mark for a Wisconsin offense that hung 70 points on Austin Peay and Northwestern, and perhaps some delayed revenge for IU's 63-32 win in Madison in 2001. As I said last year, the strange thing about that game was how quickly it got out of hand. With 6 minutes remaining in the second quarter, IU trailed 17-10 and had the ball in Wisconsin territory. A missed field goal led to a long Wisconsin touchdown drive to make it 24-10 and to put the Hoosiers in a tough spot, and at that point, it seemed likely that the Hoosiers chance for victory was gone, but it would have difficult to predict that the Badgers would score another 59 points in the final 35 minutes of the game. Most games with scores that lopsided tend to be front-loaded, not back-loaded. Every single Wisconsin offensive possession ended in a score, all but two ended in touchdowns, and the Badgers returned an interception for a touchdown as well. It was a thorough thrashing, and I don't know if it's good or bad that IU returns to the scene of the humiliation so soon.
The answer is that it's probably bad, not for any psychological reason, but because Wisconsin is going to be good again. The Badgers lose quarterback Scott Tolzien, who played very well as a senior, but in June, Wisconsin picked up quarterback Russell Wilson, formerly of NC State. Wilson graduated in three years from NC State, and so he will be eligible right away. Wilson isn't a Heisman candidate, but he saw meaningful playing time in all three seasons at NCSU and has thrown 76 TDs and only 25 interceptions in his career. He will add solid experience at a position where the Badgers appeared to be in some trouble. Still, the Badgers barely need a quarterback. While John Clay is gone, the Badgers return leading rusher James White, who ran for 1018 yards, 6.5 per carry and 14 touchdowns last season, and Montee Ball, who ran for 973 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 6 per carry. That's right: Wisconsin lost its best running back, but its top two returnees combined for 32 TDs and nearly 2000 yards. Yes, the Badger offense will be fine. At receiver, Nick Toon, son of Badger legend Al Toon, will return. He was the leading wide receiver for UW in 2010, with 459 yards and 3 TDs.Wisconsin's solid defense returns six starters, including CB Antonio Fenelus and linebacker Mike Taylor.
For better or worse, before this game the media will be rehashing the 83-20 loss over and over again. A turnaround at Camp Randall is unlikely, but here's some hope: the last time IU lost by such a lopsided margin was in 1997, when Cam Cameron's first team lost 62-0 to Iowa. In 1998, the Hoosiers beat Iowa 14-7. It is unlikely that Wisconsin's program will decline the way Iowa's did in the late 1990s, but a big turnaround would not be unprecedented. In reality, however, this will not be a game that determines the quality of IU's season. It would be a tough game in any season.