WISCONSIN: One Day and Counting

This year's Indiana home finale has a very different from a year ago, when IU topped Purdue in front of a sold out crowd to earn a postseason berth. There won't be as much ono the line this time around, but could there still be some drama? HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's match-up with our prediction for the game's outcome…

What a difference a year makes.

In 2007, there couldn't have been more at stake for Indiana's home finale. The 6-5 Hoosiers needed a win to end a 14-year bowl drought and to fulfill the pledge to "Play 13" in memory of Terry Hoeppner. That victory would have to come against arch-rival Purdue, a team that many thought also needed a win if they were going to earn a post-season berth.

The game itself was equal to the build-up, as Indiana jumped to a big lead early, squandered it late, and then Austin Starr capped the riveting contest with a 48-yard field goal that had players, fans and coaches rejoicing the 27-24 Hoosier victory.

When the Hoosiers close out their home schedule this Saturday, it will have a very different look and a very different feel. Last year's finale was played in front of a sold-out crowd of 50,741, and this year's contest figures to have approximately half that many.

The game itself pits a pair of teams that have been huge disappointments this season. Wisconsin started the year 3-0 and was ranked in the top 10, but has since dropped five out of six and sits alone in last in the Big Ten at 1-5. Just ahead of the Badgers is Indiana, which has lost six out of seven and has squandered a season with eight home games and a seemingly soft schedule.

So will the game itself mirror the morose atmosphere? Probably. Any plausible shot at bowl eligibility for the Hoosiers went by the wayside a week ago with the 37-34 loss to Central Michigan. That, coupled with an injury list that continues to grow by the week, doesn't suggest a banner effort from the Hoosiers this weekend.

Of course, there's no reason to expect a particularly spirited performance by Wisconsin, either. The Badgers have fumbled their way through the Big Ten slate, squandering leads to Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State and getting trounced by Iowa and Penn State. While they need two wins in their final three games to become bowl eligible, Coach Bret Bielema's team still figures to look past the Hoosiers Saturday.

That's not a good thing for UW, considering the fact that IU will inch its safeties into the box, and it does figure to be better at least containing Badger tailbacks John Clay and P.J. Hill than past Hoosier teams would have been. While that could open up some big-play opportunities for Badger QB Dustin Sherer, he hasn't been accurate enough this season (52.4 percent completion rate) to suggest he'll be able to regularly take advantage of those opportunities.

I'm expecting a relatively sluggish game with some miscues on both sides, the kind that will keep this game close into the fourth quarter. Neither team has been particularly good in the fourth quarter this season, but I think UW's ground game tips the scales in the Badgers' favor ever-so-slightly.

HoosierNation.com Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Indiana 19

What's coming up:
On Monday - Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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