Who: Wisconsin @ Indiana
Where: Memorial Stadium, Big Ten Network
When: Saturday, Nov. 7, 11 AM CST.
It’s been a terrible week for former Wisconsin Badger football stars now playing in the NFL.
First tight end standout Owen Daniels injures his knee on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. He’s out the rest of the season, cutting short a terrific year in which he was ranked second among tight ends in receptions.
Then on Thursday, former All-American defensive end and current NFL bust Erasmus “The Eraser” James was arrested on a tentative battery charge after he apparently got upset that he couldn’t get a drink past bar time at a popular UW-Madison watering hole.
Methinks James would have calmed down if someone had just said to him, “Hey, Eraser, things could be worse. You could be playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
Meanwhile, Travis Beckum continues to be a forgotten man on the slumping New York Giants, and the owner of Joe Thomas’s team, the Cleveland Browns, has been reduced to taking meetings with fans to apologize for the colossal embarrassment they’ve become.
(Hey, where’s my meeting with Dan Aykroyd? I’d like to talk to him about how he’s let his career go to hell for the majority of the last 25 years...)
Fortunately, things are much better with Bret Bielema’s current Badgers squad: Coming off a dominating 37-0 shutdown of a Purdue team that redefined just what the phrase “bad football” can mean, the Badgers are now back in the national rankings (#24 in AP; #22 USA Today) and look poised to win their last four games (despite three of them being on the road), which would give them a fine regular-season record of 10-2.
The final month of the season starts Saturday at Indiana, a team with only one conference win but a team that just last week took a lead against undefeated Iowa into the fourth quarter before eventually losing 42-24.
Here are the Channel 3000 3 storylines to watch in Saturday’s Wisconsin/Indiana game at Memorial Stadium.
1. Wither Scott Tolzien?
Lost in the celebratory mood surrounding the Badgers’ destruction of the Boilermakers was the fact that quarterback Scott Tolzien struggled for the third consecutive week, completing only six of the thirteen passes that he threw for just 87 yards, all season lows.
Granted, Saturday’s game was about John Clay and the Badgers’ defense, but when Tolzien was called on to throw the ball, he looked as uncomfortable as Jack Black did making out with Cloris Leachman on last year’s post-Super Bowl episode of The Office . And the accuracy of his throws would have made JaMarcus Russell recoil in horror.
The Badgers would presumably like to improve on last week’s win by getting back to the more balanced style of offense they had earlier in the season. Indiana, ranked last in the Big Ten in passing defense, should be the team to help cure whatever is ailing Scott Tolzien.
In his limited play, Curt Phillips has shown absolutely nothing to make anyone believe that he can realistically compete for Tolzien’s job. Getting Tolzien back on track is imperative for Wisconsin on Saturday.
2. Feet Of Clay.
On the other hand, why fix it if it ain’t broke? Indiana’s run defense is better than its pass defense, but nobody would confuse Indiana’s front seven with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ run-stopping group.
John Clay will undoubtedly be able to have success Saturday, so perhaps Bielema will just continue to ride his best offensive weapon.
Feeding the ball to Clay early and often may say less about Bielema’s confidence in Tolzien and more about his desire to keep Indiana’s Ben Chappell—the fourth-ranked QB in the conference despite having only one superb game—off the field.
Chappell and receivers Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher are the best things going for Indiana right now, so limiting their playing time would be a solid gameplan.
3. One Shutout Is Good, But Two Is Better.
Let’s not mince words. Wisconsin should bury Indiana. The Badgers have won four straight against the Hoosiers, including a 55-20 smackdown in Bloomington last year.
And no one in Wisconsin needs to be reminded that the Badgers simply weren’t that good last year.
Can the Badgers’ defense, which has been stout since allowing 23 second-half points to Michigan State on September 26, pitch two shutouts in a row? Probably not, but they’ll come close enough to make it another long day for Indiana Hoosier fans.
Predicted final: Wisconsin 30, Indiana 7.