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Wisconsin football: keys to victory against Indiana

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What do the Badgers need to do to defeat the Hooisers this week?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers football returns to action on Saturday as they take on the No. 10 Indiana Hooisers in Madison. It’s been a whirlwind season for the Badgers and now they take on an Indiana team that has faced some struggle recently. The Hooisers come in with just one loss to Ohio State, but last week they lost star quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. for the season.

Up and down is the best way to describe both programs at this point in time. What do the Badgers need to do to make sure they come out on the up side of things Saturday afternoon? Lets take a look.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Hang onto the football

Last time out the Badgers offense looked like they we’re playing hot potato with the football. They turned it over five times against Northwestern and the end result was an ugly loss to the Wildcats. Turn the ball over five times and you’ll likely get beat by any team, but Indiana more so than most. The Hooisers have been a team that has built their success on the turnover so far this season. Coming into Saturday’s contest they’re averaging three takeaways per game which is third in the nation behind Arizona State and Iowa (this key will be important for two weeks).

On top of forcing turnovers at a high rate Indiana is also taking advantage of them. Last week they forced three interceptions and capitalized by scoring shortly after on one of them. That touchdown put the Hooisers at 58 points off turnovers this season. Indiana is scoring 29% of their points off turnovers which is an insanely high mark in college football.

If you want to beat this team you have to take care of the football and make them drive it down the field themselves to score. That will be even more important against a backup quarterback in Jack Tuttle. Hang onto the damn ball and you probably win this game. As we’ve seen before, that’s easier said than done.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Force some pressure

Speaking of Jack Tuttle the Hooisers will be starting him at quarterback after star quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. was lost for the season due to a torn ACL. It’s a brutal blow for the Hooisers and for college football as Penix was a fun and dynamic player to watch all season. While it sucks and you want the Badgers to beat a team full strength, there is nothing that can be done and Wisconsin has to take advantage of it.

Jack Tuttle transferred to Indiana from Utah and in his time has attempted just 16 career passes. He’s basically a newbie and that should bode well for a Wisconsin defense that has looked great in all three contests thus far. For the Badgers though they need to get pressure on the quarterback.

They’ve gotten plenty of hurries so far this season, but they’ve only gotten home for 1.7 sacks per game. In 2019 the Badgers averaged 3.6 sacks per game, so you’re starting to see the major drop off and the impact it can have. If the Badgers want to take advantage of an inexperienced quarterback they need to get home and hit him, plain and simple.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Have some fun

Look, this isn’t really a key per se but I hope the Badgers go out there and fly around and enjoy themselves on Saturday. This college football season has been a disaster, and Wisconsin has faced more turmoil than most. They’ve lost three games to the coronavirus and one to the Ryan Field virus. The season has basically been a punt, but the Badgers can still take advantage of the opportunity and win this game. Or don’t, honestly, it doesn’t matter. I would prefer if the Badgers win but at this rate I have learned to not be disappointed with the results in 2020. Whatever happens, happens. Que sera, sera.

The 2020 season will not count toward eligibility so all players have the option to return, but for some it will be their last contest in Camp Randall. Without 80K fans cheering you on it will likely feel a little different, and that really sucks, but I hope the guys that are planning on departing enjoy their “Senior” day as much as they can. 2020 sucks, but hopefully these guys can go out, have some fun, and maybe even win the damn thing.