Wisconsin’s road to the Big Ten Championship runs through Bloomington

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When the season began, neither the Wisconsin Badgers nor the Indiana Hoosiers could have told you that they would be playing for a birth in the Big Ten Championship at Memorial Stadium in the beginning of November.

But in a twisted and odd season of Big Ten season, that’s exactly the situation at hand.

With a win, the Badgers (6-3, 3-2) will lock up the spot, but a loss will give the Hoosiers (4-5, 2-3) an inside edge at what has become the Rose Bowl sweepstakes.

Indiana Hoosiers (4-5, 2-3) Analysis: Head Coach Kevin Wilson has done an astonishing job with the Hoosiers in his second year. They’re looking for their first three-game winning streak since 1993 and actually have one of the scariest pass offenses in the country. Behind starting QB Cam Coffman and an occasional throw from freshman Nate Sudfeld, Indiana is averaging 299.89 passing yards a game which ranks 23rd nationally. Their favorite target is a big sophomore receiver named Cody Latimer whose coming off one of his best performances while being named the Big Ten’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week. His seven receptions for 113 yards and three touchdowns fueled the Hoosiers’ 24-21 comeback win over Iowa last week.

If you consider the Badgers as a good defensive/mediocre offensive team, the Hoosiers are the polar opposite. They have a great offense, but a defense who’s still learning the game. All that matters for Indiana against Wisconsin is their run defense which has been one of the problems. With that said, it’s been an area of improvement. Defensive tackles Larry Black Jr. and Adam Replogle played really well against Iowa while holding them under 100 yards rushing, so a similar plan against the Badgers will be necessary.

Wisconsin Badgers (6-3, 3-2) Analysis: On Wednesday afternoon, Tom Lea of ESPNWisconsin.com tweeted that fifth-year senior Curt Phillips will start against the Hoosiers. What this means for the Badgers offense is that they will be focused on the run-game, including Phillips who likes to run the ball himself. Whether it’s the right plan or not is a debate for another article, but it will indeed limit the use of Jared Abbrederis who leads UW with 37 catches, 675 yards and five touchdowns. Expect a heavy dose of Montee Ball who has a very successful history with Indiana (141.3 yards per game and eight total touchdowns).

Don’t be fooled by the names on the opposing jerseys, this will be arguably the best offense the Badgers have seen all year, particularly at the wide-receiver position. The Badgers secondary is not real physical and they do play pretty soft coverages schematically. Even though Wisconsin ranks 16th in the nation in total defense (315.63 yards per game) and scoring defense (17.56 points per game), this game could come down to making a critical stop. Corners Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie will be the key players to watch because their play will dictate how the entire game plays out.

Prediction: Wisconsin 34 Indiana 30

Last time these two teams met, the Badgers blew them out of the water with a 59-7 win. In their last two meetings, the Badgers have a ridiculous 142-27 scoring edge. But as many of you know this is not the same Badgers team. They’re very one-dimensional due to the quarterback instability and when they do throw the ball, Abbrederis is the only legitimate target. While the Hoosiers are trending in the right direction, I don’t think they quite have the personnel to deal with Wisconsin running game. I can see both Ball and James White breaking off some very long touchdown runs, but I also think this will be the first time the Badgers defense struggles. This is one of the biggest football games in Hoosiers history and they’re not going down without a fight.

TV Coverage: ESPN2 at 11:00 PM CT with Beth Mowins (play-by-play), Joey Galloway (analyst) and Niki Noto on the sidelines.

Betting Lines: Wisconsin favored by 7 points and over/under set at 55 points.

2012 Record straight up: 8-1

2012 Record against the spread: 4-4

2012 Record in over/under: 6-2

*No betting line for Badgers match-up with Northern Iowa

Are you in agreement with me and think the Spartans have what it takes to pull the upset at Camp Randall? Let me know by commenting below.

Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at grays@uwalumni.com.

Pictures:

Montee Ball (USAToday.com)

Cody Latimer (Indystar.com)

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