UW v. Indiana, matchup analysis

A close look at the Badgers and Hoosiers leading up to Saturday's game at Camp Randall

Indiana offense versus Wisconsin defense

Indiana projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

QB Blake Powers (So. 6-4, 235) MLB Mark Zalewski (Jr. 6-2, 228)
RB Chris Taylor (Sr. 5-11, 220) WLB Dontez Sanders (Sr. 6-1, 223)
LT Isaac Sowells (Sr. 6-3, 330) SLB LaMarr Watkins (Sr. 6-1, 223)
LG Adam Hines (Sr. 6-2, 315) RE Matt Shaughnessy (Fr. 6-6, 230)
C Chris Mangiero (Jr. 6-1, 310) RT Nick Hayden (So. 6-5, 302)
RG Brandon Hatcher (Sr. 6-2, 305) LT Jason Chapman (Fr. 6-4, 280)
RT Justin Frye (Jr. 6-5, 310) LE Joe Monty (Jr. 6-2, 252)
TE Chris Rudanovic (Jr. 6-4, 265) FS Roderick Rogers (Jr. 6-2, 181) 
XR Jahkeen Gilmore (Jr. 6-0, 215) CB Levonne Rowan (Sr. 6-1, 191)
ZR James Hardy (Fr. 6-7, 215) CB Brett Bell (Sr. 6-0, 200)
FR Marcus Thigpen (Fr. 5-9, 180) CB Allen Langford (Fr. 5-11, 187)

Sophomore Blake Powers is on his way to having the most prolific season passing of any quarterback in Indiana University history. In three games, he has already thrown for 718 yards and 11 touchdowns, just six shy of IU's single-season record.

Powers is a big, athletic signal caller who is also a threat to run the football. Discounting sacks, he has carried the ball 21 times for 94 yards.

For that reason, Wisconsin's defensive linemen will be challenged to maintain their rush lanes and keep Powers in the pocket.

Powers' primary job, however, is to deliver the football to Indiana's talented receiving corps. For good reason, James Hardy has been the most widely praised of IU's receivers. The 6-foot-7, 215-pound redshirt freshman doubles as a forward on the Hoosier basketball team. He is an exceptional athlete, with a combination of size and leaping ability that is very difficult to defend. He has 17 catches for 266 yards and three touchdowns.

The Hoosiers have enough talent in their supporting cast to keep teams from rolling their coverages to Hardy too zealously. Junior Jahkeen Gilmore has nine receptions for 155 yards and two scores, redshirt freshman Marcus Thigpen has six catches for 127 yards and a touchdown and redshirt freshman James Bailey has six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.

All told Powers has completed passes to 10 different targets and seven players have caught touchdowns.

While the aerial offense has been more effective, the Hoosiers are far from a pass happy team. They have actually run the ball 60 percent of the time. After averaging just 2.8 yards per carry in their first two games, IU ran for 305 yards on 60 attempts versus Kentucky two weeks ago.

The Hoosiers split up the running duties between seniors Chris Taylor and Yamar Washington. Taylor has 45 carries for 254 yards and a score, while Washington has run 52 times for 205 yards and a touchdown.

The balance IU tries to bring to the table may be a reason why Powers has been so efficient. He has completed 57 percent of his passes and has a 154.4 passer rating.

Powers, though, has never faced an environment like Camp Randall Stadium. If he can come and compete to his ability, the Hoosiers' offense should have success.

Watch for the Badgers to continue throwing a variety of combinations together in the defensive backfield. Corners Brett Bell and Allen Langford and free safety Roderick Rogers will again be asked to carry the load and must play well, but UW's defensive performance may boil down to how well third corner Levonne Rowan and fourth corner Jack Ikegwuonu play.

Watch for UW to often use a three-corner look, with Rowan a starter, versus IU's three-receiver set. The Badgers will also employ their base defense with either Johnny White or Joe Stellmacher (assuming he is healthy) playing strong safety. If the Hoosiers go to four wide receivers, or on any pure passing down, UW might turn to a four-corner, one-safety nickel defense, with Ikegwuonu and Rowan joining the fray in a 4-2-5, or use the 3-3-5 set that has appeared from time to time. This could be a game where true freshman free safety Shane Carter, or junior free safety Zach Hampton receive more significant playing time. 

The Hoosiers have a big offensive line that proved against UK that it can control the line of scrimmage, but the Badgers' run defense is among the best in the nation for a reason. UW's front seven has been stout for the most part this season and should hold up well.

Wisconsin offense versus Indiana defense

Indiana projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

OLB Geno Johnson (Fr. 6-2, 200) QB John Stocco (Jr. 6-2, 197)
MLB John Pannozzo (Sr. 5-11, 235) TB Brian Calhoun (Jr. 5-10, 203)
OLB Kyle Killion (Sr. 6-0, 225) FB Matt Bernstein (Sr. 6-1, 260)
RE Ben Ishola (Sr. 6-3, 255) LT Joe Thomas (Jr. 6-8, 303)
DT Charlie Emerson (So. 6-5, 270) LG Matt Lawrence (Sr. 6-5, 295)
NG Russ Richardson (Sr. 6-0, 265) C Donovan Raiola (Sr. 6-3, 294)
LE Victor Adeyanju (Sr. 6-4, 275) RG Jason Palermo (Sr. 6-3, 307)
FS Troy Grosfield (Jr. 6-0, 195) RT Kraig Urbik (Fr. 6-6, 317)
SS Will Meyers (Jr. 5-11, 205) TE Owen Daniels (Sr. 6-3, 247)
CB Leslie Majors (So. 5-9, 170) WR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)
CB Tracy Porter (So. 5-10, 185) WR Jonathan Orr (Sr. 6-3, 190)

On paper, the Brian Calhoun led Badger running game looks like an insurmountable challenge for Indiana's defense. The question is not can the Hoosiers stop Calhoun, it is can they hold him under 200 yards and corral him often enough to give their offense a chance to outscore Wisconsin's.

The Hoosiers have had two weeks to prepare, and they are coming off a performance against Kentucky when they allowed just 77 yards rushing on 25 carries. But the Wildcats' rushing offense is among the worst in the nation, and Indiana allowed a mediocre Central Michigan offense to wrack up 167 yards on 32 attempts.

The best offensive football team IU has faced this season is Division I-AA Nicholls State, which rolled up an incredible 408 rushing yards on 65 attempts three weeks ago in Bloomington.

Now, Nicholls State runs a very well honed triple option attack that few teams are prepared for in this day and age of college football. The Colonels did run for 395 yards in their only other game this season, a 54-0 win over Cheney, and they are ranked No. 1 in all of Division I in rushing yards per game. But 408 yards! That does not bode well for the Hoosiers come Saturday, when they will face a rushing offense that is purring to the tune of 239.2 yards per game.

IU will likely load up the box to try to slow down the Badgers much more conventional running offense (compared to Nicholls State). For the Hoosiers to win this game, though, they must not allow big plays. If IU puts eight in the box and Calhoun escapes containment, he may finally break a few long runs, the only thing his portfolio is lacking this season.

The Badgers have relied on Calhoun for the bulk of their offense so far this season, but the passing game has been fairly effective. And UW's senior laden receiving corps should have an edge against IU's sophomore starting cornerbacks.  

The story of this matchup, however, will be Calhoun and the running game versus an undersized Indiana front.

Wisconsin versus Indiana special teams

Indiana projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

PK Joe Kleinsmith (Fr. 5-11, 167)/KO Austin Starr (Fr. 6-4, 195)  PK/KO Taylor Mehlhaff (So. 5-11, 179)
P Tyson Beattie (Jr. 6-1, 200)/H Rhett Kleinschmidt (Sr. 6-2, 200) P/H Ken DeBauche (So. 6-2, 219)
LS Tim Bugg (So. 6-0, 255) LS Steve Johnson (So. 6-3, 247)
PR Troy Grosfield (Jr. 6-0, 195) PR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)
KR Lance Bennett (Jr. 5-6, 165) KR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)

Each team will have to be sound in coverage. Indiana's Lance Bennett and Wisconsin's Brandon Williams are capable of going the distance whenever they touch the football. In this respect, give an edge to UW because of kicker Taylor Mehlhaff's strong kickoffs and the exceptional play of punter Ken DeBauche.

IU's field goal kicking duties are in the hands of freshman Joe Kleinsmith, who has made just 1 of 3 opportunities this year, missing from 35 and 37 yards and connecting from 22.  

Mehlhaff is 4 of 5, with his only miss coming from 51 yards out.

Final thoughts

This game could very well become a shootout. Wisconsin's running game should be too much for Indiana to slow down, especially as the game wears on, but Powers and Co. have enough talent to make this game interesting.

BadgerNation.com prediction: Wisconsin 40, Indiana 28

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