UW v. Indiana, five things to watch

BadgerNation.com's keys to Saturday's football game between the Badgers and Hoosiers

Brian Calhoun: Any team that is going to beat Wisconsin is going to need to at least contain Calhoun, who is third in the nation in rushing yardage (156.5 per game) and fourth in all-purpose yardage (192.5).

Calhoun's exceptional durability and effectiveness has made that exceedingly difficult. Michigan did a yeoman's job trying to derail Calhoun last week and through three quarters had held him to 79 yards rushing on 21 carries, a respectable but un-intimidating 3.8 yards per carry. In the final period, however, Calhoun ran the ball 14 more times for 76 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and a touchdown. So the season has gone for the Colorado transfer. Calhoun and Wisconsin's cadre of blockers have simply worn defenses down.

All told Indiana does not have the collection of athletes or the strength and size up front that Michigan had on defense. But the Hoosiers do boast a couple of linebackers in John Pannozzo and Kyle Killion who may be able track Calhoun with relative success. Get tired of dealing with him in the running game? Calhoun is also tied for UW's team lead in receptions with 13, including 11 in the past two weeks.

"I see him running in my sleep," IU coach Terry Hoeppner said. "He's really, if you forget that you have to play against him, really fun to watch because he plays the game the way it should be played. I hope our tailbacks emulate not only the success that he has, his ability to break tackles, run inside, run outside, but then you see him get up and hand the ball to the official. He seems to just be a first-class young man in every thing that he does. He's very, very impressive. I guarantee you he's gotten our attention. We'll do our best to compete against him on Saturday."

Promising returns: Indiana and Wisconsin each boast one of the nation's best return specialists. Hoosier Lance Bennett stands just 5-foot-6, 165 pounds, but he will be one of the biggest talents on the field Saturday. Bennett is ranked second in the nation, averaging 44 yards per kick return, including an 86-yard long. He has only been allotted four opportunities so far this season and the Badgers would certainly like to keep it that way. In this regard, all eyes will be on UW place kicker Taylor Mehlhaff, who has 13 touchbacks on 29 kickoffs this season.

Bennett was No. 4 in the nation in kick returning last season, when he averaged 30 yards per return and scored one touchdown. He has been less prolific as a punt returner, but can still be a playmaker there as well. He was seventh in the Big Ten last year, averaging 10.2 yards per punt return; he has 30 punt return yards on six opportunities this season.

UW's Brandon Williams, meanwhile, is eighth in the nation averaging 37.3 yards per kick return, and is 10th in the nation in punt returning, at 18.7 per chance. He has an 85-yard kick return and a 66-yard return for a touchdown to his credit this year.

Indiana is allowing 21.1 yards per kick return and 12.0 yards per punt return this season.

Michigan effect: Wisconsin's players and coaches said all the right things this week about forgetting about their big win over the Wolverines last Saturday night.

Still, it is next to impossible to expect the Badgers, or their fans, to come close to recreating the atmosphere of last week's game. UW must be careful not to letdown this week versus Indiana. The Badgers will have to play well to beat the Hoosiers.

Week to wait: The Hoosiers, on the other hand, are coming off a bye week. Indiana has had a week to rest up, get healthier and prepare for its trip to Madison. Expect IU to expand its complex offense this week. This could be a statement game for the Hoosiers, win or lose, if they can hang with Wisconsin. Expect IU to come out of the gates fired up and to play with passion throughout.

Spread and deliver: Indiana's passing game will be a challenge for Wisconsin because of the type of athletes the Hoosiers can put on the field. Receivers James Hardy (6-foot-7, 215 pounds), James Bailey (6-2, 215) and Jahkeen Gilmore (6-0, 215) pose matchup problems because of the size advantage they have against the Badgers' secondary. And quarterback Blake Powers has done a good job of spreading the ball around. Ten different Hoosiers have caught passes, and his 11 touchdown tosses have gone to seven different receivers.

Badger Nation Top Stories