1. Hoosier Versatility
Indiana features a number of players that can be difficult to defend. Junior quarterback Kellen Lewis, already a headache to defend in regular sets, lined up at receiver for a number of plays last week, even catching a few passes in shades of Antuaan Randle-El. In addition, explosive tailback Marcus Thigpen is a multi-dimensional threat who can hurt you in a number of ways. Keeping track of who is where and who has responsibility will be a challenge.
2. Sherer's Homecoming
Dustin Sherer, an Indiana native, returns home with his best matchup to date. While Sherer has had his ups and downs in his time as the starting quarterback and while he has lost top threat Travis Beckum for the year, he does face the worst passing defense in the Big Ten (10th in passing yards allowed and worst in pass defense efficiency). In addition, young receivers Nick Toon, David Gilreath, and Isaac Anderson have shown better consistency of late and hopefully are ready to break out and become legitimate threats. This week would figure to be their breaking out party if this is to happen this year.
3. The Sacked and the Sackless
The Badgers are last in the Big Ten in sacks, despite having a number of reasonable pass rush options (on paper). The Hoosiers are dead last in sacks allowed despite a very mobile quarterback and an offense geared to avoid sacks. Who knows how this one will turn out, but the Badgers could sure use some heat on Lewis and Ben Chappell.
4. Stayin' Alive
Despite their balanced offensive attack, the Hoosiers have had trouble keeping drives alive, converting on just 29% of their third down conversions. This would indicate that they can hit for the big strike, but have trouble putting long drives together.
On the other side of the ball, Indiana is last in terms of 3rd down percentage allowed, giving up first downs at a 44% clip. This should serve the Badgers strong ground game well, but Sherer and company have to be more consistent and make the plays that present themselves. Since the Badgers do not have big play threats, in many ways they have a very different offensive agenda than the Hoosiers do….long prolonged steady drives.
5. 4th Quarter Blues
The Badgers have struggled in closing out games, losing three games that were very winnable due to late game collapses. Indiana has been even worse, at least according to the numbers, as they have been outscored 67-10 in the fourth quarter. Presuming the Badgers lead, IU seems about the least likely team to stage a comeback.
Indiana is the weakest team the Badgers have faced since Marshall (although Michigan is probably right up there). Wisconsin, for the most part, has played just well enough to lose to teams that are much better than the Hoosiers. One can never rule out a self-destruct with this team, but I look for them to put things together and roll to a victory. I think the defense is playing well enough to keep the IU offense under control, and I think that the Badgers can put up a lot of points on Indiana. I look for a quick start and a convincing win….38-21.