After having their Nov. 28 rivalry game canceled, the No. 16 University of Wisconsin football team (2-1, 2-1 Big Ten) will host their second home game of the season this Saturday against the No. 12 ranked Indiana Hoosiers (5-1. 5-1).
The Badgers are coming off a disappointing 17–7 loss at the hands of No. 14 Northwestern. Throughout the game, Wisconsin struggled to get any sort of momentum on offense, could only muster 366 total yards and turned the ball over five times. The Badgers will have to clean up their sloppy play to defeat an opportunistic Indiana defense.
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Throughout the year, Indiana has forced opposing quarterbacks into mistakes, and the Hoosiers lead the country in total interceptions. Head Coach Tom Allen’s defense has improved dramatically since he took over in 2016 as Indiana’s defense ranks fourth in the Big Ten in points allowed per game (21.7). Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz will have to be aware of Indiana’s stingy, turnover-seeking defense.
One huge blow for Indiana’s offense is the loss of star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Penix was the main reason for Indiana’s surprising hot start, throwing for 1,645 yards, 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Penix’s arm skills were on display in Indiana’s top-10 road matchup against Ohio State in Columbus.
Penix shredded the Buckeye defense with 491 passing yards and five touchdown passes. Penix’s absence is a detrimental blow to the Hoosier offense.
A player to watch in Saturday’s matchup will be Penix’s fill-in Jack Tuttle. The six-foot-four redshirt sophomore was a talented recruit out of high school, earning a spot in the coveted 2017 Elite 11 Finals which highlights the nation’s best prep quarterbacks. While Tuttle has a talented arm, he lacks experience.
Tuttle has only thrown a total of 16 passes in his two years in Bloomington. Expect Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard to try to pressure the young quarterback and force him into mistakes.
For Wisconsin, a key player to watch will be running back Jalen Berger. The true freshman running back has flourished in his last two games, potentially propelling him into the lead back role. Berger leads the Badgers with 180 yards through three games this season.
Saturday’s road game in Madison marks Indiana’s first game at Wisconsin since 2013. The Badgers trounced the Hoosiers 51–3 in that matchup. Wisconsin is 41–18–2 all-time against Indiana.