With every game that Indiana plays this season, we'll take a pregame look at five keys that the Hoosiers will need to be successful.
Here's the five keys for today's game with Wisconsin:
1. GET OUT OF THE GATE QUICKLY This is a game where Indiana can't afford to be in too big of a hole early. The Hoosiers need to have early offensive success. Wisconsin's running game is so good that this is one of those kinds of games that can snowball very quickly if IU is unable to keep up offensively. So the primary key, more than anything else, has to be to have a quick start.
2.ESTABLISH THE RUN This is always a key but it's even more important when you're trying to make sure you're not completely one dimensional. This situation is compounded by the fact that Tevin Coleman is not expected to play. That puts huge pressure on Stephen Houston and the IU offensive line. But a great neutralizer against a strong defense can be to have early success and pop a big run. IU did it against the Big Ten's top defense, Michigan State, when Coleman ran 64 yards for a touchdown on IU's first possession. If IU can establish the run it can ultimately give Nate Sudfeld a little extra time in the pocket.
3. FORGET ABOUT THE PAST It sounds simple enough but the reality is that there are players on this team that were freshmen when IU lost at Wisconsin in 2010, 83-20. Even in two years under Kevin Wilson, IU has been outscored by the Badgers 121-21. "We have to look at it like this is the first time the 2013 Indiana football team has played the 2013 Wisconsin football team,'' said senior safety Mark Murphy. That's true but that can be easier said than done. Still, that's clearly a key to IU's success today is forgetting about what has happened in recent history with the Badgers.
4. DON'T GET LULLED TO SLEEP ON DEFENSE Wisconsin has a basic game plan: Run, run, run and then run some more. Once the defense is lulled to sleep, try a quick play action pass and get big yards. If you've watched IU's defense a lot this year, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. Somehow IU has to be run conscious but also know that Wisconsin may try to exploit the IU defense with some quick play action work.
5. GET THE TIGHT END INVOLVED In a game like this one, the role of a big target like Ted Bolser can be particularly big. If Sudfeld is on the run and having to make quick throws, getting a player like Bolser involved early can be a great safety valve. Bolser has 30 catches in the first nine games. This is a game where he could have five or more.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch