Know Your Foe: Indiana

Sporting the highest ranking its had all season, No.17 Wisconsin continues its modest homestand by hosting the high-powered - but defensively-inefficient - Indiana Hoosiers Saturday. Badger Nation gets the inside scoop on this week's opponent from AllHoosiers.com publisher Terry Hutchens.

1, Indiana has scored at least 28 points in every game this season. What's been the secret to Indiana's offense that opposing defenses haven't been able to slow them down?

Terry Hutchens: Indiana, when at full strength, has a lot of ways to beat you. They have a quality stable of wide receivers, two really good running backs and a good tight end target in Ted Bolser. Nate Sudfeld runs the no huddle offense well and Indiana scores incredibly quickly. IU has just had a great number of big plays both from the wide receivers and the running backs. No defense, not even Michigan State, has been able to slow them down significantly.

2, The Hoosiers passing game is tops in the Big Ten, averaging 327.4 passing yards per game. Is that number a result of Nate Sudfeld's progression from last season, the receivers making plays or the system?

Hutchens: I think it's several things. Sudfeld has really come on and that has been a difference. Last year it was Cam Coffman at quarterback after Tre Roberson broke his leg. This year Sudfeld and Roberson have shared time but Sudfeld has been the primary guy. But it has also been the system. Indiana has had some good wide receivers over the years and in terms of a complete group, this is arguably their best.

3, How big of loss is tailback Tevin Coleman to the Indiana offense and do the Hoosiers have a suitable backup?

Hutchens: It's a huge loss. Coleman is the one back who can really hit the hole and make something out of nothing. The other back, fifth-year senior Stephen Houston, has been good, especially the last couple of games, but he tends to be a runner who goes down quickly after the initial hit. When IU has been able to mix the two, the Hoosiers have been effective. But a one-dimensional running attack with just Houston will be a significant loss for Indiana.

4, As good as the offense has been, Indiana's defense ranks last in the conference in points, total defense and pass defense. Why has the unit struggled so mightily?

Hutchens: Answer that question and you could solve Indiana's football woes for the past two decades. With Indiana it has always been about the defense. Recent games against Wisconsin have been brutal in terms of points allowed but it has been much of the same with everyone they face. They simply can't off the field on third down, they don't get enough of a pass rush and the DB's end up on an island way too much, and they haven't been able to consistently stop the run. Add it up and it's a recipe for disaster. People in Bloomington have been saying all year long that if Indiana simply had an average defense, with the way the offense scores points, that this could have been a seven or eight win football team. Now it's looking like 5-7 may be the ceiling.

5, How important have the special teams been to Indiana this season?

Hutchens: Mitch Ewald is the most consistent placekicker in Indiana history and holds several school records. He hasn't missed a field goal this season though he also hasn't tried a bunch because Kevin Wilson has the reputation of being a gambler inside the red zone. Ewald gets a good numbers of kicks into the end zone so the kick coverage hasn't been tested that much. The punter, Erich Toth, is average. He's capable of some big kicks but lacks consistency. The blocking on punts hasn't been good and IU has had one blocked and a couple of other near misses.

6,Now in his third year in Bloomington, how close is Kevin Wilson to running the program he wants to run?

Hutchens: It's getting closer all the time. Wilson has always been an offensive guy and I think it's hard for him to sit back and see the defense struggle like it has. I think from a personnel standpoint, now in his third year, Wilson has the guys in his program that he can potentially win with. He had a good freshman class this year and a lot of those guys have played. Indiana only loses five or six seniors that contributed this year.

7, What areas of Wisconsin do you expect will give Indiana trouble? Where do you think the Hoosiers have the edge over the Badgers?

Hutchens: I think defensively, Wisconsin will be too much for Indiana to handle up front and thus Sudfeld will be less than comfortable in the backfield. As for IU's defense, I don't see the Hoosiers slowing down Wisconsin's running game. The things IU can exploit are down field matchups if Sudfeld is given enough protection. But that's a big if.

8, What is the one thing Indiana needs to do well in order to win Saturday?

Hutchens: Get off the field on third down and make some early defensive stops. If Wisconsin just runs up and down the field from the beginning it will be a long afternoon for the Hoosiers.

9, What's your unbiased prediction for the game?

Hutchens: Biased or unbiased, my prediction is Wisconsin 56, Indiana 31. I think the Badgers will cover in this one.


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