Last year, before the season kicked off, we ran a feature where we found four facts in the Phil Steele preview of each team on Wisconsin’s schedule. We are going to do something similar this year, but we are also including Brett Ciancia’s Pick Six Previews in the mix. He and Steele write two of the best, if not the best, preseason college football previews and there is an absurd amount of info on each team. You buy both of those and you are set for the season.
Even though we are a few games into the season, due to the strangeness of this year there are still valuable insights to be gleaned from the preseason magazines. Let’s get down to it!
Fact No. 1: there is a new quarterback in town
Injuries suck. Injuries to star players that have already been injured before suck even more. IU’s starting QB Michael Penix Jr. is out for the season with an ACL injury and now the quarterbacking duties fall to backup QB Jack Tuttle. Tuttle is a former 4-star high school recruit who transferred from Utah and was granted a waiver to play immediately last year.
The name may sound familiar because the Badgers were considered one of the favorites to land Tuttle back in 2018. In fact, his recruiting profile on 247Sports have his Crystal Balls split four ways between Alabama, Southern Cal, Utah and Wisconsin. For the curious, UW ended up with Chase Wolf in that cycle.
Tuttle stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds and has a live arm and can move a little bit. As far as his mobility he seems closer to Graham Mertz than Penix. Appearing in under half of a game this year, Tuttle is 5-for-5 for 31 yards while landing the plane in a Hoosiers win over Maryland last weekend. Indiana hasn’t been good running the ball this year but they probably won’t want to rely on an unproven QB, even a talented one like Tuttle.
Question No. 2: can IU run the ball on Wisconsin’s defense?
Stevie Scott III has been a personal favorite of mine since he burst onto the scene as a freshman and was setting records in Bloomington. As a sophomore last year he was second-team All-B1G despite missing time due to injury and he came into this year with high expectations.
The Hoosiers were the No. 106 rushing offense (130 ypg) in the country last year, despite Scott’s efforts, and No. 111 in yards per carry (3.6 ypc). That’s not good. This year...it is even worse! There are only nine teams in America that are rushing for fewer yards per game than the Hoosiers and their measly 102.3 ypg! They are also only averaging 3.0 ypc which is barely better than Kansas, UMass and Mississippi State.
With an unproven quarterback under center, the Hoosiers will probably try and establish the run early to get Tuttle into a groove but, uh, Wisconsin has the No. 2 rush defense in the country and is only allowing 67.3 yards per contest.
Fact No. 3: the IU defense is opportunistic
Over the last four years, the Hoosiers as a team have had a minus four turnover differential. Last year they were plus two in defensive coordinator Kane Wommack’s first year at the helm. This year? The Hoosiers are tied for third in the country at plus nine and have had 18 total takeaways (16 INTs, two fumble recoveries) in just six games.
That’s three takeaways a game, for all you math wizards out there!
Wisconsin is coming off of a game where the starting quarterback turned the ball over four times (three picks, one fumble) by himself. The Hooisers defensive backs have to be licking their chops watching that film. They’ve got four dudes on their defense who have more than one interception and if they can force the Badgers into passing situations they’ll make life miserable for Mertz.
Question No. 4: who is going to stop Ty Fryfogle and Whop Philyor?
The best named and potentially most talented WR duo in the country have been basically unstoppable this year. Fryfogle leads the team with 33 catches for 652 yards and seven scores while Philyor is right behind him with 32 catches for 367 yards and two scores. We won’t even have time to mention red-zone target TE Peyton Hendershot who has three touchdowns of his own this year!
Now, with a new quarterback in there things may be a little bit different on offense. However, Tuttle is talented and his receiving group is extremely talented and they should cover up some of his mistakes.
With starting CB Rachad Wildgoose gone to prepare for the NFL Draft, the Badgers lost one of their starting defensive backs at the worst possible time. Thankfully the defensive backfield is a deep unit for UW, but they would have been at a disadvantage against Indiana even with Wildgoose so, it’s hard to see how they stop the 6-foot-2 Fryfogle and 5-foot-11 Philyor without him.
I’ll go out on a limb and say Semar Melvin has a big game for UW, similar to how he played well against Minnesota’s vaunted passing attack last year. And, uh, if he doesn’t? Well, I guess we can say that’s the first time I’ve been wrong about anything on this website.