Wisconsin Football is back in action to take on the #12 Indian Hoosiers at Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin football returns to the field tomorrow afternoon after last week’s Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe with Minnesota was canceled due to Covid-19. The Badgers are looking to bounce back after a frustrating loss to Northwestern two weeks ago. The Hoosiers are riding the momentum of a costly 27-11 victory over Maryland last weekend.
Wisconsin football has won 10 straight games against Indiana dating back almost 20 years. The last time the Hoosiers beat the Badgers was in 2002. Throughout the Badger’s winning streak, they have put up some gaudy numbers with scores like 83-20 (2010), 62-14 (2012), 51-3 (2013), and most recently 45-17 (2017). In fact, Wisconsin football has an average margin of victory of 35.9 points over the last 10 matchups. However, it has been over three years since Wisconsin has played Indiana, and Head Coach Tom Allen has turned the Hoosier football program around. Tomorrow’s matchup should closer than in the past, but with the loss of starting QB Michael Penix Jr, the Hoosiers are 14-point underdogs according to Vegas Insider.
It is tough to say what this Hoosier team will look like without its star quarterback. Penix Jr. accounts for a majority of their offensive production with 1,645 yards passing and 14 touchdowns. In limited action against Maryland, Jack Tuttle completed all 5 of his passes for 31 yards. Needless to say, the Hoosiers will be depending on Tuttle to step up in Penix’s absence.
On the ground, Indiana has relied on RB Stevie Scott to carry the load. Scott has 405 yards on 119 carries and 8 touchdowns. Last week, Scott saw a slightly diminished role as Tim Baldwin Jr. split a bulk of the carries. Baldwin Jr. rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries. However, Scott was the only running back to find the end zone with 3 touchdowns. Indiana averages 102 yards rushing per game, so I expect the Hoosiers to increase both their workloads to control the pace of the game and keep the Badger offense off the field.
Defensively, Indiana is another tough matchup for Wisconsin Football. While the Hoosiers’ defense averages 21.7 points against them this season, they are coming off a dominating performance against Maryland, in which they picked off Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa 3 times and also sacked him 3 times. Anytime a defense holds the opposing team to 11 points, you have to be impressed. The Badgers will have to find ways to attack an opportunistic defense to come away with a victory.
After missing another game due to Covid-19 concerns, the Wisconsin football offense looks to reestablish itself after a miserable performance two weeks ago. QB Graham Mertz will need to protect the football much better than he did against the Wildcats, where he was picked off 3 times and lost a fumble. Mertz has shown great promise this season, but it will be important for him to show resilience after a disappointing performance.
The biggest question heading into tomorrow’s game is whether Wisconsin Football will have wide receivers Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor. Both receivers missed the game against the Wildcats with undisclosed injuries. Davis is still uncertain for tomorrow, but they do expect to have Pryor available. At the very least, Pryor’s return will provide a much-needed weapon for Mertz and the Badger offense.
The lone positive from the loss against Northwestern was the Badger defense. I realize that is an odd statement to make after a loss, but they still played extremely well considering how often they were put in short field situations. The Wisconsin football defense only averages 11.7 points against them and holds teams to under 250 yards of total offense.
However, the loss of CB Rachad Wildgoose is a looming concern for the Badger secondary. Wildgoose suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and then decided to opt-out to focus on recovery and the NFL draft. The Badgers will need either Faion Hicks or Caesar Williams to step up in his place.
Unlike last week, I am hoping that history repeats itself for Wisconsin Football. I believe the loss of Penix Jr. will be too much for the Hoosiers to overcome. The Badgers defense will be able to load the box and stifle the Indiana rushing attack, while Mertz and the Badgers will get back on track this week with the return of Kendrick Pryor.