Despite being undefeated and ranked No. 4 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and Amway Coaches polls, the Wisconsin Badgers found themselves situated at No. 9 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings released earlier this week.
They’re not focused on that first release, however. They’re looking straight ahead to an intriguing opponent in the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday morning.
Though it doesn’t have a conference win, Indiana (3–5, 0–5 Big Ten) could give Wisconsin (8–0, 5–0) some troubles on both sides of the ball. A pace-based offense averages over 79 plays a game with the Big Ten’s leading receiver in terms of receptions, while head coach Tom Allen’s defense has a couple of impressive linebackers that could plug UW’s rushing attack with or without the conference’s leading rusher in Jonathan Taylor.
When and where is the game?
Wisconsin and Indiana will kick off at 11 a.m. CT at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind.
How can I watch?
The game will be broadcast on ABC with Dave Pasch assigned to play-by-play duties, Greg McElroy as the analyst, and Tom Luginbill reporting from the sideline.
How can I stream the game online?
Via WatchESPN.com and the ESPN mobile app (iOS/Android).
How can I listen to it on the radio?
On the Badgers Sports Network, where you’ll find the usual team of Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas, and Patrick Herb. Head to BadgerSportsNetwork.com to find it. You can also listen on iHeartRadio (iOS/Android/online) by searching “WIBA.”
On satellite radio, you’ll find the broadcast on Sirius 135/XM 195.
Final injury report:
Taylor, Cephus, Dixon, James all still questionable for #Badgers. Loudermilk, Ramesh out. pic.twitter.com/Q5fYRwyz65— Jason Galloway (@Jason_Galloway) November 2, 2017
Who and what to watch during the game
Indiana’s wide receivers vs. Wisconsin’s secondary
Yes, the Hoosiers are 84th in the nation in total offense, 105th in S&P+, but against Maryland last week, they ran 97 plays and gained 483 yards. Simmie Cobbs, Jr., leads the conference in receptions (54), and three receivers—including Cobbs—caught 10 or more passes against the Terrapins.
“I mean we’ve played a lot of talent, but I feel like this is the most depth at receiver we’re going to face as far as people who can come in and make a difference, so we just got to come and do our jobs,” cornerback Derrick Tindal said on Wednesday. “They got Simmie Cobbs, a guy who can attack the ball. ‘22’ [true freshman wide receiver Whop Philyor] and ‘25’ [redshirt junior Luke Timian], they actually are the people who keep the drives going. They get the first downs between them two, so we just got to go in there and stay within our technique and just play and compete.”
The status of quarterback Peyton Ramsey (65.4 percent completion percentage, 1,252 yards, 10 touchdown passes, five interceptions) status is up in the air as of Wednesday night, but Richard Lagow has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 812 yards with six touchdown passes and three interceptions.
“‘3’, he’s shown he’s got some wheels. He’s pretty elusive and he’s a competitor, so it’s always fun when you face guys who like to win,” inside linebacker Ryan Connelly said on Wednesday. “The other guy [Lagow] is tall, he’s got a big arm, so it’s definitely two different sides of the spectrum that we have to focus on.”
In eight games, Indiana has run 638 plays, an average of nearly 80 per contest.
“I think definitely when these guys get clicking, they get in a rhythm and they’re pretty hard to stop,” Connelly said. “You just got to get your calls, got to get lined up, and that’s the biggest thing is just they’re trying to catch you off guard so you just got to be on top of it.”
Tindal said that the defense has prepared for that style of offense of being lined up for plays within eight seconds of the previous play ending, with the senior corner noting it’s between 12–15 seconds per snap during the game.
The secret to stopping such a scheme, according to Tindal: Don’t give them the opportunity to get in their rhythm.
“I mean with pace teams, get them off the field quick,” Tindal said. “Ain’t no fast pace if you’re out in three plays, so just going out there and competing and trying to win first, second, and third down because once you let a team like that with a fast pace get going, they can really hurt you. We’re Wisconsin. We like to slow our game down over here, so we got to make them play to our pace, don’t play to their pace.”
Wisconsin’s rushing attack (with or without Jonathan Taylor) vs. Indiana’s defense
Taylor gained 73 yards on 12 carries before leaving Wisconsin’s 24–10 win at Illinois with a left leg injury. He is still questionable heading into Saturday’s match-up in Bloomington, though it appears he and all the players listed as questionable will make the trip.
His presence, if healthy enough to make an impact, would be beneficial against a rush defense that’s 10th in the Big Ten against the run (162 yards per contest).
Linebackers Chris Covington and Tegray Scales, both seniors for Allen’s defense, are tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (eight). Scales leads the team in tackles (64) and sacks (four).
“Linebackers [No.] 4 and [No.] 8, Covington and Scales, those guys can fly,” Wisconsin running back Garrett Groshek said on Tuesday.
If Taylor cannot go, expect the likes of Groshek and Bradrick Shaw to step up in his absence. Groshek, the walk-on back who has emerged since switching to the position in the spring, rushed for 51 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown last week in Champaign. He’s currently averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the season.
Shaw rushed for 40 yards on 12 carries in the win last week, and it should be interesting to see if running back Chris James returns, as he, like Taylor, is also questionable for the game.
Indiana does give up 26.8 points per contest, putting the Hoosiers 11th in the conference, though they trail only Michigan and Wisconsin in pass defense, allowing 180.1 yards per game. In terms of pass defense efficiency, Indiana is ninth in the Big Ten (122.9).
It will also be a match-up of the best third-down offenses, as Wisconsin leads not just the conference but the nation in moving the chains on that down (53.5 percent). Indiana is no slouch, however, holding opponents to 30.5 percent, third-best in the Big Ten and 18th in the country.
Jake Kocorowski: Wisconsin 31, Indiana 10
Ryan Mellenthin: Wisconsin 38, Indiana 10
Owen Riese: Wisconsin 49, Indiana 23
Neal Olson: Wisconsin 24, Indiana 13
Kevin O’Connell: Wisconsin 31, Indiana 17
Andrew Rosin: Wisconsin 17, Indiana 12 (Wisconsin scores a TD last)
The above score is my bold prediction. Despite a lack of a complete game from this team so far, I think with Indiana’s injuries and an offense possibly missing one of its two quarterbacks, Wisconsin puts something together down in Bloomington to stymie IU’s offense with its defense putting another touchdown up on the board. For some reason, despite the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, I’m trending towards positive vibes for this offense this week. Call it a gut check.
Some of you tend to agree:
Badgers finally blow out a B1G team.— Biscuits (@wiscoinferno) November 2, 2017
Hornibrook throws NO picks, Badgers return a punt for a TD, and win by 20.— Douglas Greenberg (@DougGreenB) November 2, 2017
One fan predicts an upset.
Hoosiers 21 Badgers 14— Ryan Andersen (@baraboo99) November 2, 2017
A couple are predicting big rushing performances, as along with the below answers, B5Q’s Neal Olson predicts Groshek will lead the team in rushing on Saturday:
Badgers run for 400 yards— Owen Riese (@RieseDraft) November 2, 2017
Groshek rips off a 52 yard touchdown run— Michael Rose (@THEMichaelRose) November 2, 2017
Badgers finally hit a jet sweep for a 50+ yard gain and Hornibrook completes 70%+ of his passes with 3 TDs and 0 INTS— Tyler Morgan (@tyler_morgan28) November 2, 2017
As bold as it gets--Badgers suffer no injuries during the game,,,,— Todd Romance (@toddromance) November 2, 2017
This is definitely a bold one:
Jack Coan comes on in relief and leads Bucky to a W— THOMAS SCHAFFER (@TMSWIU) November 2, 2017
B5Q’s Ryan Mellenthin also believes Troy Fumagalli will get the third 100-yard receiving game of his career.