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November 9, 2012

All-Out Blitz: Indiana



Welcome to this week's "All-Out Blitz," where you'll find everything that you need to know about the Badgers' next opponent. The Badgers will travel to Bloomington, Ind., this week to take on the Indiana Hoosiers in a game that, as strange as it sounds, could determine which team ends up representing the Leaders Division this year in the Big Ten championship game. The game is scheduled to kick off at 11 a.m. CST, and will air on ESPN2.

All Out Blitz: Indiana

What you need to know about Indiana

Head coach: Kevin Wilson (2nd season @ Indiana), 5-16 (2-11 Big Ten)
Indiana All-Time Record: 450-616-45 (.425)
2012 Record: 4-5 (2-3 Big Ten)
Ranking: NR (AP), NR (Coaches Poll)
All-Time record against Wisconsin: 18-38-2

Did you read this?

Know Thy Foe: Indiana

Last year

Kevin Wilson's season was relatively unremarkable. That tends to happen when your lone win comes against an FCS team, South Carolina State, and even then, the Hoosiers only won by 17 points. The Big Ten slate wasn't any better- the Hoosiers opened with a competitive loss to Penn State at home, but were eventually outscored 326-137 in the rest of Big Ten play. The Hoosiers performed reasonably well on offense, but lost 59-7 to Wisconsin and 55-3 to Michigan State. It wasn't a great year by any stretch of the imagination, but Wilson was able to play some younger players and set his team up for a little more success in his second year. They couldn't build Rome in a day, and Wilson wasn't going to make Indiana into a respectable team in a year either.

Season outlook

Like I mentioned before, the Hoosiers entered the season with a few reasons for optimism. Playing younger players meant 15 starters returned for the season, including starting quarterback Tre Roberson. The schedule didn't do them any favors again, but games against Indiana State and Massachusetts looked like a solid way to start the season. A bowl berth still seemed like a stretch, but it looked like the Hoosiers would be able to pick up their first FBS win under Wilson, and maybe even win a game or two in the Big Ten as well. All in all, the Hoosiers were looking to make some solid progress, and show they weren't planning on being the Big Ten's doormat for much longer.

This year

So far, the Hoosiers might be one of the Big Ten's biggest surprises. Indiana won their first two games of the season, but followed that up with a five-game losing streak. However, a lot of those games were closer than the experts were expecting. The Hoosiers hung with Michigan State and Ohio State, and each game came down to the last few possessions. They followed those games up with a close loss to Navy, but won their first Big Ten game in about a year and a half by beating the hapless Illinois Fighting Illini on the road. The Hoosiers also won consecutive Big Ten games for the first time since 2007 when they beat Iowa last week.

All of a sudden, the Hoosiers are 4-5, and could control their own destiny in the Big Ten Leaders Division with a win over Wisconsin this weekend. The Hoosiers need two more wins to secure a bowl berth for the first time since 2007, and are not technically eliminated from the Big Ten championship race as long as they could sneak into the championship game.

What's all the more impressive is the Hoosiers have been competitive without Roberson, who broke his leg in the second game of the season and won't return this year. Roberson threw for 937 yards a true freshman in nine games, and the Hoosiers were excited about his upside to start the season. Sophomore Cameron Coffman has stepped up in Roberson's place, and he's played pretty well. Coffman is completing 63.5 percent of his passes this season, and has 10 touchdowns and four interceptions this season to go with 1699 yards through the air. Coffman is coming off his best game of the season against Iowa, and the Badgers will definitely have their hands full trying to keep Indiana's passing game in check, especially since they average 301 passing yards per game. Freshman quarterback Nate Sudfeld gets in on the action as well, and has seven touchdown passes this season.

Indiana's air attack has gotten a lot of help from a talented group of wide receivers, too. Last year's top receiver, Kofi Hughes, is back for his junior season after he caught 35 passes for 536 yards last year. Hughes has been good again for the Hoosiers, and is already on pace to top last season's yardage. Hughes has 33 receptions for 488 yards and two touchdowns, but sophomore receiver Cody Latimer has upstaged him a little bit. Latimer has 39 catches for 645 yards, and already has five touchdowns this season. Fellow sophomore Shane Wynn also leads the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns with 44 and six, respectively.

The Hoosiers like to air out the ball, but running back Stephen Houston has been a nice complement on the ground this season. The junior back has 802 yards through nine games, and averages about 5.3 yards per carry. The Hoosiers give him about 13 touches per game, but he has eight touchdowns on the ground this season. Wilson also likes to get Houston involved in the passing game as well. The 6-foot tailback has 22 catches for 192 yards and three touchdowns this season.

But, like so many other Indiana teams over the years, their defense has held them back. The Hoosiers are third in the Big Ten in scoring offense this season, but are 10th in points allowed after giving up 28.9 points per game. That's an improvement over last season when they were 12th in the Big Ten and gave up 37 points per game, but it's not quite where the Hoosiers would like it to be.

The Hoosiers are getting a little more pressure on the quarterback this season, though. Led by defensive tackle Larry Black Jr., the Hoosiers have 21 sacks this season, and 14 of those have come during Big Ten play. That number is bolstered a little bit by their game against Illinois when they tallied seven sacks against the Illini, but it's still better than last season when they had a grand total of 17 sacks through a full Big Ten schedule.

But in the end, a lot of the Hoosiers' success will probably depend on if they can slow down the running game. The Hoosiers currently allow 128 yards on the ground per game in Big Ten play, and they'll probably have to do a little better than that on Saturday. To their credit, they've performed much better against pro-style ground games like Iowa, but the Badgers have had a lot of success on the ground against Indiana over the last few seasons, and they'll definitely try to keep that trend going this year.

Matchup to watch: Montee Ball and James White vs. Indiana's front seven

I'm a little tired of using this matchup, but it's really true. The Hoosiers can score, and score quickly. But the Badgers have been able to run over the Hoosiers over the last two seasons, and it's likely that they'll stick to that same strategy of feeding Ball and White, to eventually set up a play action pass or two. And I think that strategy stays the same, no matter who's under center for the Badgers. If the Badgers can establish their ground game, I think they'll be able to control the game. But if Indiana stuffs the run and forces Curt Phillips or Danny O'Brien to throw, it's anyone's game.

The pick: Wisconsin 37 Indiana 24

Who would have thought that this game would be so consequential? The winner has the inside track to be the Leaders Division's representative in the Big Ten title game, and a win by the Badgers clinches that berth for them. The game is a little trickier this season because it's in Bloomington, but I still see the Badgers escaping with a win. Indiana will be fired up and is talking about going to the Rose Bowl for the first time in years, but I don't think their run defense will be good enough to keep the Badgers in check.

The Badgers struggled against Michigan State, but they've fared much better against the likes of Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois on the ground. Look for them to give Ball and White a lot of touches, and I'll say that Phillips has a little bit of success in the play action passing game.

The point after:

The Badgers have just one player from the state of Indiana on their roster- true freshman offensive lineman Jake Meador. On the flip side, Indiana has three Wisconsin natives on their roster. Defensive end John Laihinen and safety Alexander Webb are from Mequon, Wis., and offensive lineman Cody Evers is from Little Chute, Wis.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.


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