It's hard to figure out what's a worse memory – the last time IU played a game on the road, or the last time it played Wisconsin.
When the Hoosiers (5-3/2-3) travel to Madison, Wis., to face the Badgers, it will mark the first time they've played on the road since their forgettable trip to East Lansing, Mich., two weeks ago. In that contest, the Spartans did whatever they wanted to on offense, piling up 558 yards on their way to a 52-27 victory.
That setback was the first failed attempt to lock up bowl eligibility, a streak that is in danger of reaching three after this Saturday's match-up. Michigan State's mauling was also the only game this year in which the Hoosiers appeared to be clearly out-classed by a superior opponent this season.
As bad as that memory was, last year's encounter with Wisconsin was probably worse. In the 2006 Big Ten opener, Coach Terry Hoeppner returned to the sidelines after a two-week absence and watched his team fall behind 52-0 after three quarters and eventually succumb to the Badgers 52-17. After punting on their opening drive of the game, Wisconsin scored on eight of its next nine possessions and embarrassed the Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium.
Indiana will look to erase both of those memories with a much better performance this week at Camp Randall Stadium. While last year's setback was a disappointing one, it's not a game that will have much bearing on this year's contest, according to IU Coach Bill Lynch.
"I don't think those things are motivators," said Lynch. "I think you address it so they understand why a game went a certain way. We didn't use what happened against Minnesota the year before as a motivator (Minnesota beat IU 63-26 last year, but IU prevailed this season 44-20). We addressed what happened there, and why we didn't give ourselves a chance to win. I think that is probably the best way to look at it."
Offensively, Indiana figures to be able to move the ball, put points on the board and give it a chance to win. Wisconsin has given up at least 30 points in three of its four Big Ten games thus far, so opportunities should be there for Kellen Lewis, James Hardy, and the rest of the offense.
The biggest challenge figures to be on the defensive side, where Indiana has to figure out a way to hold up against a huge Wisconsin offensive line, a bruising fullback, and a workhorse of a tailback in P.J. Hill.
If Indiana can figure out a way to put some points on the board early and take a lead, it has a chance to spring the upset. That's what it did in Iowa City a month ago, when it forced the Hawkeyes to all but abandon the run game as it had to play catch-up the entire second half.
But if Wisconsin jumps out early and is able to wear down the Hoosiers' defensive front with its huge offensive line, it could be a long afternoon for the Hoosiers.
HoosierNation.com Prediction: Wisconsin 35, Indiana 23
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Matchups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
WISCONSIN: One Day and Counting
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