Indiana won't get beat by the 17 ½ points that linesmakers are suggesting, and the Hoosiers will get off to a quick start on Saturday.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Hoosiers go four wide at the game's outset, trying to take advantage of the fact the Badgers are a bit banged up and a little inexperienced in the secondary. Indiana has four wideouts who can stretch the field as well, which will be hard for Wisconsin to handle.
With Indiana having so little experience back at wide receiver from a year ago, it would be easy for Wisconsin to think it can handle IU's wideouts in man coverage. That could be a big mistake. At various times during the fall, Jahkeen Gilmore, James Hardy, Marcus Thigpen and James Bailey have each looked like the best wideout on the roster. Thigpen and Bailey in particular could be poised for a big play early, because they'll be lined up against either a safety or a third or fourth corner.
While the general rule of thought is to establish the run to set up the pass, Indiana's best chance of moving it on the ground against a stingy Badger run defense is to throw early, spread the Badgers out, and then try to sprinkle in some quick hitters from Chris Taylor and Yamar Washington once the Badgers are expecting Indiana to throw.
It's hard to imagine, though, that Wisconsin's big offensive line won't eventually take control of this game in the second half. Indiana's defensive front will be at a decided size disadvantage, and four quarters of Joe Thomas, Donovan Raiola, Matt Bernstein and others is bound to take its toll. That could force the linebackers and safeties to creep up and try to shoot the gaps to disrupt things in the backfield. If that fails, a big play or two could be the reward for the Badgers.
There isn't a coach in the country who will publicly say there's such a thing as a good loss, but if Indiana can hang around in Madison, this still has a chance to be another positive step for the IU program, win or lose. A year ago, Indiana was whipped on the road at Kentucky (51-32), Ohio State (30-7) and Purdue (63-24), and blew a big lead in a 26-22 loss at Illinois, a team that had lost 14 straight Big Ten contests. If it can show that it can be competitive against a upper-echelon Big Ten foe on its homefield, that is a monumental step in the right direction.
HoosierNation.com Prediction: Wisconsin 35, Indiana 23
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What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do To Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday – IU vs. Wisconsin
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