Indiana doesn’t play Wisconsin in football all that often, but whenever it does, one year in the series history always enters into the pregame conversation.
The Oct. 6 matchup that season unfolded in ways that so many other IU-Wisconsin football games since 1993 have not — the Hoosiers did to the Badgers what the Badgers typically do to them, rolling to a 63-32 victory.
Consider how the winning team:
- Recorded 343 more rushing yards than the loser
- Opened a 32-point first-quarter lead
- Authored 10 scoring drives — none of which required more than six plays, nor took more than 2:50 off the clock
Sounds like an IU-Wisconsin game, right? Just, the other way around. Everything about that game seems impossible — the score, the stats, the way it unfolded. I mean, Levron Williams had three touchdowns and 74 yards on his first four touches of the game. He went on to score six times, setting the IU single-game record, while combining with Antwaan Randle El for 382 yards on the ground. It was utter domination.
Anyway, that was the last time Indiana won at Camp Randall, a place where the Badgers’ average margin of victory over IU the last five meetings is 42 points. Whenever Indiana and Wisconsin meet in football, the 2001 game is held up as an example of what is possible on the right day. “See!” folks inevitably say. “Anything can happen!”
This year, for the first time in a long time, a strong IU performance in Camp Randall isn’t hard to fathom. This year, Indiana doesn’t need a miracle. Sure, the Hoosiers need a few things to go right, most notably their injury-necessitated substitution at quarterback. But the past month and a half has illustrated that this team can play anyone, anywhere. The power of belief is on full display within IU’s locker room, and so a win in Madison wouldn’t be incredible.
It would just be the next joyous victory in a season full of them, another Aflac trivia question torn up and tossed into the raging flames of the 2020 college football dumpster fire that encircles us all.
(For more on Wisconsin, check out our chat with Bucky’s 5th Quarter’s Drew Hamm by clicking here)
Here are a few thoughts on the matchup:
I went digging through the ol’ notebook on Monday after IU announced quarterback Michael Penix would be done for the season, looking for leftovers from the day in December 2018 when Jack Tuttle announced his commitment to IU. What I found was this quote from his coach at Mission Hills (Calif.) High School Chris Hauser:
“He’s a big-arm quarterback,” Mission Hills coach Chris Hauser told The Herald-Times. “He can throw it. He can throw all the throws. He’s going to be able to throw that big post route over the top. He’s gonna throw that deep dig route. He’s gonna throw that big comeback. He’s gonna be able to throw that throw sideways in a hurry and he’s also gonna have great touch to a running back coming out on a screen, or a tight end on a delay route or a crossing route. So from an arm standpoint, I believe he can make the throws necessary to play in the Big Ten.”
That’s all good stuff to keep in mind this weekend, a reminder that IU seems to have done a really nice job of assembling solid quarterback depth under head coach Tom Allen. But the question with Tuttle doesn’t seem to be talent. It’s the other stuff — how does he handle stepping into a league game between two ranked teams? How does he operate under pressure? Has he begun to develop rapport with any receivers? Can he see the field clearly and minimize errors? Does he have a little magic up his sleeve, much like we saw at times with his predecessor? We believe Tuttle has the talent to make the high-level throws this offense needs him to make. But there are a lot of other qualities we’ll be looking for as he takes over these next few weeks.
Both Tuttle and Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz have questions to answer. For the latter, little has come easy since his season-opening five-touchdown performance against Illinois in late October. So you can bet that Indiana’s opportunistic, sneaky defense will do what it can to coax Mertz into bad spots. Whether Mertz will actually be turned loose will be something to monitor. Given his most recent performance against Northwestern, coupled with IU’s ability to seize takeaways, Wisconsin might try to play it safe with its approach to offense. So there could be some really fascinating philosophical strategies to watch unfold on both sides in this one.
Another new wrinkle?
We applauded IU offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan last week for trying something new with the struggling Hoosier running game. Against Maryland, Sheridan introduced the Wildcat package to strong results, piling up a chunk of yards and scoring three touchdowns on direct snaps. However, it’d be surprising if the same approach worked to a similar effect in consecutive weeks. Keep an eye out for added wrinkles, even within the Wildcat formation. Some form of play-action, perhaps? Maybe a jump pass to a tight end? Who knows! It was great to see Sheridan thinking differently against Maryland, and it’ll be interesting to learn whether he has any other fresh ideas to implement against the Badgers.
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers (5-1) at No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers (2-1)
Where? Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
When? Saturday, Dec. 5, 3:30 ET
Channel? ABC | Joe Tessitore (p-b-p), Greg McElroy (analyst) & Holly Rowe (sideline)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Buck Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Wisconsin -13
SP+ Projection? Wisconsin by 15 (34-19), 81 percent chance of Badger victory