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November 11, 2013

UW looks to keep running over IU

MADISON, Wis. - The Indiana Hoosiers have had close losses and narrow wins during their last few seasons, but for some reason they haven't had much luck against the Wisconsin Badgers.

And while the Badgers (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) are currently riding an eight-game winning streak over Indiana (4-5, 2-3), their last three games have been particularly ugly. The Badgers have outscored the Hoosiers 83-20, 59-7, and 62-14 in their last three games, outgaining the Hoosiers by an average margin of about 277 total yards per game.

Last year's game featured a three-touchdown game from Montee Ball, with James White and Melvin Gordon combining for another three rushing scores while Curt Phillips managed the game at quarterback.

But even though the Badgers have handled the Hoosiers with relative ease since they escaped Bloomington with a 3-point win in 2009, head coach Gary Andersen said he knows his team will try to ignore their previous success and focus on stopping another potent Indiana offense.

"I think the tape will speak for itself," Andersen said of Indiana at his Monday press conference. "Football is year by year, and Indiana's done some really nice things this year. They've had some tough losses or in games all the way through. They score at least 28 points each week. That doesn't make you stand up and grab your attention as a defender, then nothing will."

The Hoosiers are coming off a 52-35 win over Illinois last weekend, keeping their hopes for a bowl berth alive with three games left in the regular season. The Hoosiers need two wins to be eligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2007, but they'll need to beat two of Wisconsin, Ohio State and Purdue to do it.

Scoring on Purdue's miserable defense shouldn't pose much of a challenge, but the Hoosiers will need to find a way to keep either the Badgers or the Buckeyes in check if they want to postpone their offseason for a little while longer.

Offensively the Hoosiers have a potent spread attack, but their defense still ranks at or near the bottom of the Big Ten in several categories. The Hoosiers are allowing 6.2 yards per play this season (11th in the Big Ten), and opponents are averaging 37.4 points per game (12th). But Andersen said the Hoosiers have a solid scheme, and his players will need to execute well and keep quarterback Joel Stave upright if they want to keep their offense humming.

"One thing I'll say, [Indiana's defense], they're playing hard," Andersen said. "They've got a good scheme, and week in and week out, they continue to battle. I think our kids will be ready, and they'll have great respect and understand that it's every week that you got to prepare. There's three weeks left. So we should have very clean and crisp practices in the regular season to finish it off the right way, and it's all about preparation. Then we'll see what happens on Saturday."

News and Notes:

-- Andersen said Dan Voltz will likely start at center again this week, with Dallas Lewallen still ailing with a leg injury. Andersen said Lewallen made progress during practice last week, but he's probably not at a point where he could practice on Tuesday and give the Badgers high quality reps.

-- The Badgers moved up just two spots in the latest BCS standings after their 27-17 win over BYU. That leaves just three weeks to climb six spots in the poll if they want to play in a BCS bowl game as an at-large team, if Ohio State runs the table and plays in the Big Ten Championship Game. Andersen said he's still not too concerned about where his team will end up playing during the postseason, as long as they finish the season strong.

"What's important for these kids -- and it has been from the very beginning -- is to play well week in and week out," Andersen said. "Everybody wants to play in as big of a bowl and as big a stage as you can at the end of the year. No one's ever going to say we don't want that in any way, shape, or form.

"But it's not going to -- as this team continues, they've labeled themselves as a good team, and they deserve it. Right now, if it was over, they'd be known as a good team regardless of what happens. They want to be a great team. If they're a great team, then they're going to play in a very, very prestigious bowl game at the end of the year wherever it may be. We'll have a great time. We'll be excited to go to that bowl game and compete and hopefully win."

In addition to running the table, the Badgers need to hope that a few teams stumble ahead of them like LSU,

-- Andersen likes what safety Michael Caputo has brought to the table in his first season as a starter. Caputo also missed out on all of spring camp after he had neck surgery, and Andersen said the sophomore received the ultimate compliment on Saturday when BYU players talked about how well Caputo played after the game.

"I had the opportunity to talk to a couple of BYU kids after the game, and one of the first things that one of their safeties said to me was, you know, 'What year is Caputo?' I said, well, he's a sophomore. He's like, 'Man, Coach, that guy's a really good player,'" Andersen said. "That's the ultimate compliment as a player, when you walk off the field, and within two hours a kid is passing on that kind of information to a player, that's pretty special."

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

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