Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wisconsin-Indiana predictions

Wisconsin has handled Indiana fairly well over the past 15 years, going 8-2 against the Hoosiers since 1993. My favorite game was in 1994, our freshman year. IU came in ranked with a hot shot running back named Alex Smith, and Hill was still a big IU fan for football. We won 62-13.

But I just can’t shake the image of the two losses during that time:

-In 2001 Antwan Randle-El, Levron Williams and friends won 63-32 in Madison. I remember sitting in the press box at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh listening to the game on my Walkman, in total disbelief - touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. That game was the worst defensive performance by the Badgers since Alvarez took over. That game epitomized how badly the staff had missed in recruiting during the late '90s Rose Bowl years and left the program without depth. At least Randle-El was a worthy conqueror.

-In 2002 we collapsed late and lost 32-29 in Bloomington to a bad IU team. I didn’t even watch the game after we took what seemed to be a commanding lead, went shopping in West Towne with Jana. The best side story from that game: Bob Docherty (right), an Oshkosh North grad who went to UW along with Darrin Charles, was hurt that day and didn’t make the trip. He felt so comfortable with the game that he, too, didn’t watch the second half. Difference between him and me: he was a member of the team. After the game someone called him and asked him what he thought; he said something to the effect of “easy win, huh?” and his caller then informed him that the Badgers had lost. Soon Doc left UW and transferred back to UW-Oshkosh.

So while I was watching the replay of the UW-Northern Illinois game, the highlights that stuck with me weren’t of us running over an overmatched Huskies team, but the breaks showing Kellen Lewis and James Hardy against Penn State. The Hoosiers lost that one, because they turned the ball over four times in the second half, but put up 31 points on a damn good defense.

Indiana should also be plenty hungry – they’re still one win short of being bowl eligible for the first time since 1993, and they’re still playing for their popular deceased coach, Terry Hoeppner. They’ve got playmakers all over the field:

-Hardy (top), the best wide receiver in the country not named DeSean Jackson (that’s a toss-up).
-Lewis (bottom), who seems like Randle-El with a much better arm.
-Marcus Thigpen, great returner and slippery back.
-Two highly thought-of cornerbacks with girls’ names: Leslie Majors and Tracy Porter.
-A couple of other defensive playmakers in DE Greg Middleton and LB William Patterson.

Even with all that, I think we outscore them tomorrow and win. But look at the point totals they’ve given up this year:

Western Michigan 27; Akron 24; Illinois 27; Iowa 20; Minnesota 20; Michigan State 52; Penn State 36.

Actually, those numbers are sort of similar to the Badgers’ defensive numbers. If this is in Bloomington, I might be predicting an IU win, but we’ve gone back to winning most of the time in Madison.

I think Beckum has a big game, as do PJ and Smith. The big matchup is Ike and Carter against Hardy, we’ve got to hold him to one touchdown. And Mehlhaff has to get more of his kickoffs into the end zone than not, to keep the ball away from these dangerous returners.

Two good points from the Cap Times experts today: control the ball and keep it out of IU's playmakers' hands, and can Ike shut down Hardy like Jamar Fletcher shut down Plaxico Burress in 1999?

Prediction: UW 38, Indiana 34

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