IU will host Wisconsin Saturday in a game that is surprisingly important for both teams. The Badgers, 6-3 (3-2), currently are in first place in the Leaders division due to Penn State and Ohio State being ineligible. With a win over Wisconsin, IU, 4-5 (2-3), would be in first place in the division with a chance to go to the Big Ten championship game.
Now for a quick break to talk basketball. If you are looking for a preview the season opener against Bryant, then you're out of luck. There isn't much to say. IU is favored 33.5 points and when they last met in 2009, IU won 90-42. IU rolls them tonight, might have a slow start, but will still get an easy win.
Now, back to football and the biggest game of Kevin Wilson's head coaching career.
Perhaps just as important is that if IU wins tomorrow, they will be bowl eligible with two games left. They have two more games left, at Penn State and at Purdue. Winning tomorrow means they only have to win one of those games for a bowl trip. That would be an impressive accomplishment for this young squad and for Wilson especially.
Here's what Wilson had to say about this upcoming game in his weekly press conference:
There are a few things that fans should be on the lookout for on Saturday.
- Montee Ball. His numbers are down from last season, but he is still a beast of a running back. Ball has 1,028 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Last season, Ball had nearly 2,000 yards rushing, 33 rushing touchdowns, and six receiving touchdowns. Why the man didn't go pro is beyond me, but now he will be the Hoosiers problem. The main reason for his drop off in production is that there isn't much of a passing threat anymore and his offensive line isn't as talented. That doesn't mean that he couldn't rush for 150 yards against IU, it just might be more difficult, especially after coming off a bad game against Michigan State, he'll be looking to bounce back. IU needs to contain him and force Wisconsin to pass if they have any hope of getting stops on defense.
- Passing? We know that IU will pass a lot, and often, but not so much with Wisconsin. The Badgers are 105th in passing in the nation and average just 180 yards a game through the air. Neither of Wisconsin's quarterbacks have gotten off to that good of a start. Freshman Joel Stave had been the starter, but was hurt during the Michigan State game. Junior Danny O'Brien may get the start and in limited time hasn't been all that productive. He's completing 60 percent of his passes for 523 yards and just three touchdowns. IU shouldn't have to worry as much about the passing attack from Wisconsin
- Third Downs. Wisconsin only allows a 30 percent conversion rate on third down. IU has struggled at times to get first down, they will have to avoid third and long situations to keep drives alive. On the other side of the ball, the Badgers are not particularly adept at picking up third downs either. They convert just 33 percent of the time but IU is in the bottom of the Big Ten here and allows a 41 percent conversion rate here. This looks like it will be weakness against weakness when the Badgers have the ball.
- Close games. Wisconsin has lost three games this season by a total of just nine points. IU has lost four of its games by a total 10 point. Both have struggled when they had to have a game winning drive or a stop. If this is a close game, it will be interesting to see who can seal the deal.
- Quality win. Wisconsin has feasted on bad teams this year. The Badgers Big Ten wins have come against Minnesota, Purdue, and Illinois. Those three teams have one conference win between each other. These were not the typical Wisconsin blowouts where they beat you by at least 40 points, they scored 38 points in all three wins and didn't allow more than 14 points a game. IU is significantly better than those three teams and should be able to give the Badgers a run for their money.
IU has a big opportunity in its last home game of the year. They could make a statement to the rest of the Big Ten with a win tomorrow.
After looking over Wisconsin's season so far, it's pretty clear that this isn't anywhere near the caliber of team they have had over the past few seasons. The Badgers have dominated IU the last couple years, but now it may be time for a little pay back. With that said, we think that IU ties the game up late but can't stop a late field goal drive by Wisconsin, IU falls 31-28.
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