Halloween was two weeks ago, but Indiana football is about to enter a house of horrors.
Check that — Wisconsin football has had Indiana's number the past three seasons regardless of venue. The Badgers have outscored Indiana a combined 204-41 in the last their last meetings, including a 142-27 margin in Madison.
Indiana fans surely recall images of John Clay, Montee Ball and other Wisconsin running backs running roughshod over an overmatched Hoosier defense. This Badgers team is no different, ranking second in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game.
At the same time, Indiana can't afford to overlook Wisconsin's potent defense, which ranks second in the Big Ten in yards and points allowed when the two play at noon today at Camp Randall Stadium.
"We've got an opportunity against a great team, very good team," Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. "You've got to play well in all phases. You're not going to go up and down the field on this team's defense. They played against some very, very good offenses, and they played and shoved them in a box."
Per usual, few are giving Indiana's banged-up defense a chance against Wisconsin's power running game and complimentary play-action game. Per usual, the offense will have to carry the load.
Indiana's offense had a field day against Illinois last week, amassing 650 yards. Wisconsin's defense — headlined by senior linebacker Chris Borland, who leads the team with 70 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and four sacks — presents a much tougher challenge for the Hoosiers' high-power offense. The preparation changes little, though.
"Just keep doing what we're doing," senior tight end Ted Bolser said. "Nothing's going to change. We put a lot of points on Michigan State, the most they've allowed the past couple years. So we're not going to overthink anything, we're just going to go out and play and expect to do what we do."
Cody Latimer had a personal field day against Illinois, setting career-highs in catches (11) and yards (189) to go along with three touchdowns. He victimized Illinois' relatively inexperienced secondary but will have to face a much more talented group of defensive backs this week.
"I've seen them play against Ohio State," Latimer said of Wisconsin's corners. "They're fast and those guys play physical. I'm just going to have to bring my ‘A' game, and it's going to be a more challenging game. It's a game that's important to us that we need to go get."
Latimer stressed the importance of establishing the run game early on, saying that IU's pass game generally opens up if the run game is going well.
The run game will be without sophomore running back Tevin Coleman, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the fourth quarter against Illinois. He was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Monday after rushing for a career-high 215 yards and two touchdowns against the Illini.
His backup, redshirt-senior Stephen Houston, is well-prepared to take Coleman's spot. The former starter ranks sixth in program history with 20 rushing touchdowns and registered his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game last week vs. the Illini.
"I know he wants to play bad, so I'll be out there playing for me and him, along with the team," Houston said of Coleman. "I'm going to take his load and put it on my back, as well, and just got out there and play my game within the team."
Bolser said this Indiana is different than the teams that have been blown out in recent years by Wisconsin.
"Completely different team, different mentality, a lot more confidence," he said. "I mean we've been in every single game and if we finish well, and we're going to keep on fighting.
"I think in the previous years teams would just not even attempt to comeback from things like what was 35-14 deficit against Minnesota. We're going to keep fighting."
Indiana fans might not believe in what Bolser said until they see it. The question remains: Why will this year's game against Wisconsin be any different?
Houston's answer is simple: the neigh-sayers are just background chatter.
"People live off the hype," he said. "We feed off of our past losses and how we want to do better, how we want to take the next step, so we feed off of that. We don't get into the hype because once you get into the hype you lose focus of what is in front of you."