Tomorrow, the Indiana Hoosiers and Wisconsin Badgers meet in a game that, like most games this late in the season, is a must-win for both teams. The Hoosiers are playing for their bowl eligibility and the Badgers are playing to stay alive for a BCS at-large berth. Losing this game would probably mean death to both of those hopes.
Indiana (4-5 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) has a season-ending home game against the Purdue Boilermakers that they should win, but needs to either win tomorrow, or pull off what would be a very impressive road upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes next week in order to make that Purdue game win No. 6. Needless to say, the Hoosiers stand a better chance of getting the road win at Wisconsin. The Badgers are in just as desperate a situation, however.
Wisconsin (7-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) needs this win not only to stay alive in the BCS standings, but in the Big Ten Leaders’ Division as well. A loss and Ohio State win at the Illinois Fighting Illini tomorrow would eliminate the Badgers from division contention. Getting a third loss at home to an unranked Hoosiers squad would likely drop the Badgers out of the BCS standings and end any chances at playing in one of the five BCS bowl games.
The order is a tall one for Indiana. Their generous defense must find a way to slow down the tenth best running game in the nation (280 yards per game on average) on their home field. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon is ninth in FBS with 1,160 yards, and lately, James White has been a terror for defenses, running for over a hundred yards in the last two contests for the Badgers. As the Hoosiers average allowing 217 rushing yards per contest, they must find a way to do something they haven’t been able to do all season long so far, be stingy against the run.
The challenge will be on defense for Wisconsin. The Indiana offense is just as good as their defense is bad. The Hoosiers are ranked eighth in the nation in total offense and scoring offense. If Wisconsin gets into a shootout with Indiana, then the Badgers may not have the passing game to be able to keep up.
The Badgers’ best defense will simply be keep-away. Running the ball against Indiana’s porous defense, grinding out the clock, and keeping Indiana’s offense on the sideline will be a winning combination for Wisconsin, as they look to keep their hopes for a BCS bowl game alive for one more week.