So, we have come to the "one game the Badgers will win." Of course, that preview was written back in the days when the Badgers were expected to be a top 10 ten, borderline top 5 even.They were considered a lock for nine wins and over as well as possible BCS title and Heisman contention. Instead, UW is coming in with a 6-3 record, and narrow wins over Utah State and Northern Iowa. Now, it seems like a disappointing season, but remember that the Badgers really have only three 3-point losses. Danny O'Brien was not the transfer-savior at QB, and Montee Ball has not busted loose for Hesiman contention, sure. But really, compared to the rest of the Big Ten, they're doing just fine. They're in the lead to make the Big Ten championship game and a possible Rose Bowl berth, and certainly aren't afraid of anyone they might meet in that championship game.
I'd like to run through the reasons that I see that both teams have cause for optimism coming into this game on Saturday, starting with IU.
The Hoosiers should be optimistic because:
- The Hoosiers have to be sky-high in confidence, and itching to paste an upset on the team that has made them look terrible in their last two head-to-head match-ups.
- Outside of the win at Purdue, the Badgers have lost their road games.
- With UW's similar victory margin over Illinois and their loss against Michigan State (who the Hoosiers played well against) the Hoosiers have got to be thinking this a UW team that there is a real honest-to-God chance that IU might come out and look like a better team, at least in stretches.
- The Badger offense is quite mediocre, and was one-dimensional even before the loss of their QB Joel Stave.
The Badgers should be optimistic because:
- They posses an "explosive ground game" destroyed Minnesota with three top-notch rushers. And the IU defense has not faced rushing challenges particularly well. Even Indiana State outgained the Hoosiers on the ground.
- The Badgers are coming off a close home loss to a tough team in OT, so they'll be motivated.
- Those other road losses that UW suffered were to ranked teams. (Oregon State is #11/13, Nebraska #16/18)
- There's a bit of pregame hype surrounding this as the game to decide the Rose bowl berth. UW worked pretty well with this pressure on the road against Purdue.