Indiana head football coach Terry Hoeppner returns to the sidelines after being out for nearly three weeks. It is understandable given he had scar tissue removed that could have become cancerous. He revealed this week in his press conference it was NOT a brain tumor, as widely thought. Also, everything post-surgery looks great. "The scan after the surgery looks good. Doctors keep telling me that they have to keep an eye on me…I tell them that I will be praying, because that is working wonders. I love to coach, so my prayers are answered." Having the old ball coach will be a great motivator for the Hoosiers. Hoepp is one of the good guys in college coaching. It will be great to have him back out there…doing what he loves.
ANOTHER HARDY MYSTERY
Sophomore standout wide receiver James Hardy will re-appear in the Hoosier lineup on Saturday after a two-week layoff for ‘personal reasons." The 6-7 stand-out was a second team All-Big Ten selection in 2005 when he hauled in 61 receptions for 893 and 10 touchdowns. Pretty much every publication had him named to the first team All-BT in the preseason. "It's good to be back," Hardy says in Thursday's Indy Star. "I was dealing with some personal issues and now I want to do what's best for the team. I've been watching some things and going over it, and I'm going to try and help my fellow receivers get on the right track. The past two weeks are in the past." In two games of action this season, Hardy has seven receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. He, along with Marcus Thigpen, is part of a very dangerous Hoosier receiving corps. Thigpen is said to have an electronic timed 4.22 in the 40 yard dash. It would have been the fastest time at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this spring.
IU OFFENSE vs. UW DEFENSE
If you are a statistician or actuary, this is where you will make a very immediate prediction. Indiana is only averaging 73.5 yards rushing per game. That is good for 109th out of 121 NCAA Division I schools. They only have two players, QB Kellen Lewis (102) and RB Demetrius McCray (101) – season rushing yards in parenthesis, with more than the team average. When you are playing against a Wisconsin defense that is only giving up two more yards per game than Lewis has gained all season, which is not good news. The Hoosiers are ranked number 38 in passing offense, however. They are averaging 227 yards through the air each week. IU uses a two-quarterback look. Blake Powers is the pocket passer, with Lewis the scrambler. Powers is said to be fully healed from a leg injury suffered in the season opener against Western Michigan. Hardy's presence will increase the pressure on the Badger defense and turn up the positive amplifier for the IU offense. Wisconsin is leading the Big Ten in passing defense, only allowing 140 yards per game. IU's offense is ranked 86th in the country, and the worst in the Big Ten. UW's defense is the second best in the conference, and number 17 in the NCAA. Something is going to give. Key matchup: UW corners vs. Hardy. He will have a huge height advantage over whoever is assigned to defend him. Ike is listed at 6'1" and Allen Langford is 5'11". The Badgers do not implore a jam/bump-n-run defensive style, so making sure they close quickly. Also, the LB's need to get a bump on him when he crosses the middle before sitting down in the zone.
IU DEFENSE vs. UW OFFENSE
This is where things are actually even – on paper. Through four games, the national ranking Hoosier defense is at 61st. That puts them at 8th in the Big Ten. On the flipside of the coin, Wisconsin's offense is ranked 76th nationally and 10th in the Big Ten. Wisconsin is averaging 319.2 yards per game of total offense. Indiana is giving up 322.2 yards when on defense. The Badgers are gaining 151.2 yards rushing the ball each game, while the Hoosiers are giving up 153.5 . When the Badgers pass the ball, they have been totaling 168 yards per game. How many yards have the Hoosiers allowed? Right around 168….and eight tenths. I told you things were even. Well, if the scoring averages for both units stay to average, Wisconsin will win 24-23. I guess that is not even. Hoosier CB Tracy Porter is tied with Langford and Ohio State's James Lauranaitis for the Big Ten lead in interceptions at three. Key matchup: Travis Beckum vs. the Indiana linebackers. We are assuming that PJ gets his 120 yards, which will open up play-action passing. Beckum has been the favorite target of John Stocco. On film, IU has had difficulty with LB coverage on TE. That could mean a field day for Beckum and Stocco…and Hill.
Indiana is said to have sold 87,000 tickets for its first three games – combined. That is pretty much what the average for each Big Ten game crowd at Camp Randall will be this season. All 35,000 fans at this game better be ready to go. Then again, you can probably expect a good number of them will be part of the Badger Nation, as Wisconsin always travels well.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
If Indiana co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic does not give his father full support on Saturday, I guess you could say that he might have a good reason. You see, his dad, Bob, will be wearing a Wisconsin shirt. The elder Palcic is the offensive line coach for the Badgers. I wonder which shirt Joe's mother and Bob's wife, Theresa, will be wearing? My guess is that it will at least have an Adidas logo on it. More than likely, a three dimensional "W" as well. Hey, she lives in a house that is being paid for with a paycheck from the University of Wisconsin. In the end, it was not that difficult to figure out. Bob and Theresa's two daughters, Amy and Monica, are both in football as well. Amy works in the media relations department for the Cleveland Browns. Monica's husband Mark Simoneau is a 7th year linebacker in the NFL. He is currently playing for the New Orleans Saints. Wow, I wonder if they talk about football at Thanksgiving.
MOVE OVER BROOKS BOLLINGER
John Stocco entered the season as one of the three best quarterbacks, statistically, in the history of Wisconsin football. He had amassed 5.042 passing yards, 30 TD passes, 376 pass completions, and a completion percentage of .565 . Stocco already holds the record for most passing yards in a season at 2,920 from 2005. Through the first four games, he has 672 yards, 58 completions, and 4 TD passes. With the yardage added in, he now has 5,714 career passing yards. That total is good enough for second place all-time, just above Brooks Bollinger at 5,627. The 34 TD passes Stocco now has places him alone in fourth all time, just ahead Jim Sorgi at 33. Bollinger and Randy Wright are tied for second with 38. Stocco will more than likely have passed them by before the clock strikes November. Darrell Bevell has what looks to be an insurmountable record at 59 for his storied career. Before the season, the 376 completions were ranked fifth best in Badger football history. Well, he now has 434 – good enough for second just ahead of Mr. Bollinger. Stocco hopes for win number four on the season more than achieving these statistical records…I would hope.
In my preseason picks, I said this would be a 31-20 game. Honestly, I just cannot see the Badgers scoring more than that right now. Until they can prove to be a dual threat team, they are not going to score more than 21-24 points. But, when you are playing a team with an offense that is as run-anemic as Indiana's, things look pretty good. PJ Hill remembers the end-zone while rushing the ball, and also re-acquaints with his good pal Mr. Century Mark. Hardy and the Hoosiers put a scare on – much like I predicted in the preseason. This is one of those "ugly but nice" wins for UW. This is win number one on the ‘we have to get at least four BT wins to be bowl eligible' list.WISCONSIN 31, Indiana 21