Every week I will try to do a quick Q&A session with a beat writer from the opposing team. This week it's Benjamin Worgull, site publisher for the Wisconsin Scout.com site.
Here's the result of that Q&A:
Hutchens: 1. Just how good is this Wisconsin team compared to the ones that have piled up 200 points against IU the last three meetings?
Worgull:We certainly think the Badgers are good this season, as the numbers would suggest that first year Gary Andersen is building a good thing in Madison. The Badgers rank fifth nationally in scoring defense (15.2) while ranking 26th in scoring offense (37.1). That average scoring margin of +21.9 points is seventh-best among FBS teams. Wisconsin's running game has been dominant (10th nationally at 280.6 yards per game) and the Badgers' defense is full of veterans who have shut down a lot of potent offense this season. BUT, who has Wisconsin beaten? Wisconsin is 7-2 and none of its wins have come over a team currently ranked in the top 25 while its two losses have been come against the toughest teams on its schedule (one point at Arizona State and seven points at No. 4 Ohio State). UW won't be tested on both sides of the ball until the bowl game, although Minnesota has become sneaky good. As usual, Wisconsin has made the most of its home-field advantage, going 5-0 and outscoring opponents by 32.6 points per game. However, those opponents currently have a combined record of 16-31.
Hutchens: 2. We all know that Wisconsin is known for producing one great running back after another. How good is this group in that regard and what does the pipeline look like for the future at the running back position for the Badgers?
Worgull:If it's not one running back cutting through defenses it's been the other. Melvin Gordon was on fire to start the season, rushing for over 140 yards in six of the first seven games, doing most of his damage on power runs and jet sweeps. Iowa and BYU, UW's last two opponents, decided that they weren't going to get beat on that play, especially the Cougars, who threw multiple defenders to Gordon's side of the field to prevent that play. So what happened? Senior James White has accounted for 345 yards and six touchdowns, the best two-game stretch since November 2010. White is not only a weapon in the running game, he's Wisconsin's best pass catching on and the best tailback when it comes to protecting the quarterback in blitz pickups. He is gone after the season and there's a chance that Gordon could leap to the pros, but the Badgers have already started restocking the cupboard. True freshman Corey Clement shined in the first month of the season and appears ready to make a big leap this year, and the Badgers have already grabbed verbal commitments from a pair of three-star tailbacks: Hyattsville (MD) Dematha Catholic's Taiwan Deal and Goose Creek (SC) High's Caleb Kinlaw.
Hutchens: 3. Offensively, how would you characterize this Wisconsin team? Is it a quick-strike offense or more a methodical, move the chains, high time of possession type of unit? If you were to single out one side of the ball would you say the Badgers are better on offense or defense?
Worgull:Without multiple explosive wide receivers and a quarterback still developing, Wisconsin isn't a program that will get the quick strike often, although the deep play-action pass has been there this season. I also don't think we'll ever see the day where the Badgers are running an up-tempo offense like Oregon, BYU or Indiana. Wisconsin has had 52 drives this season where it has come away with points. Of that group, 24 have been at least eight plays, including four of five scoring drives last week, and 15 have chewed at least 4:30 of clock. Wisconsin has some playmakers in its offense (the tailbacks, senior receiver Jared Abbrederis, senior tight end Jacob Pedersen, a stellar offensive line), but the defense is certainly a better group because the large amount of seniors that incorporate the front seven. Chris Borland is having another All-American-type year and the Badgers have built talented depth at a number of positions.
Hutchens: 4. What do you see as the most intriguing match up on either side of the ball heading into Saturday's IU-Wisconsin game?
Worgull:Wisconsin's secondary against Indiana's receivers. Wisconsin's secondary was the weak point coming into the season, but the Badgers have had decent cornerback play and have had a number of unexpected players – Michael Caputo, Nate Hammon and Tanner McEvoy – step in at the safety. As a result, Wisconsin has allowed only 25 plays of 30 yards or longer (sixth-fewest given up by an FBS team) and opponents are averaging only 5.6 yards per pass attempt against UW. Still, UW hasn't seen an attack quite like the Hoosiers with a lot of receivers with high catch totals. Considering how much Wisconsin, on paper, appears to overmatch Indiana, I think this is the battle that has the most intrigued.
Hutchens: 5. What do you think will be the final score Saturday and where do you think Wisconsin will be playing in the postseason?
Worgull:I've got Wisconsin's running game going wild and the passing game hitting some quick drop-back passes to pick apart the Indiana defense. I think UW's defense is playing as such a high level that they'll be the first program to hold the Hoosiers under 28 points this season, winning 52-24. Wisconsin sits No. 22 in the BCS with four weeks of the season left. The Badgers need to win out against a schedule without a marquee opponent and need some anarchy to happen in front of them. I think it's almost a certainty that Wisconsin plays in the Capital One Bowl, meaning the Arizona State debacle cost UW and Jim Delaney's pocketbook.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch.