Wisconsin Football: Breaking Down the Badgers' Remaining Opponents
Coming off huge wins over Ohio State and Iowa, Wisconsin enjoyed a much-needed bye last weekend and is now rested and ready to finish off 2010 on a strong note.
Nick Toon and Lance Kendricks are both healthy and expected to play on Saturday, while James White is still recovering from his sprained knee, although coach Bret Bielema believes he may be ready to go as well.
So, at 7-1 (3-1) Wisconsin is tied for first in the Big Ten with many people expecting them to run the table the rest of the way. However, although they should be favored in every game from here on on out, they will still need to play well.
Anyone is capable of beating anyone in the Big Ten. Any missteps from here on out and Wisconsin can kiss those BCS dreams goodbye.
With that in mind, here's a quick look at Wisconsin's final four opponents in 2010.
Sat. November 6, @ Purdue
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At 4-4 (2-2), Purdue is by no means a great team. But they are a dangerous team—especially in West Lafayette.
Despite losing both starting quarterback Robert Marve and star wide receiver Keith Smith to season-ending injuries, the Boilermakers are still fighting for a bowl berth and would love nothing less than to spoil Wisconsin's season.
It's not like Purdue hasn't shown it's capable of pulling off the upset at home. See Purdue vs. Ohio State in 2009.
Rob Henry has stepped in nicely for Marve under center, while running back Dan Dierking is averaging six yards a carry.
However, the offense is still averaging only 18 points a game, while the defense gives up almost 27.
Yes, this could be a trap game for the Badgers. But they'll have to play pretty poorly to blow this one.
Heck, Illinois and Ohio State beat the Boilermakers by a combined 83 points the last two games.
Prediction: Wisconsin 35, Purdue 17
Sat. November 13, Indiana
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Maybe the worst team in the Big Ten other than Minnesota, Indiana will still be fighting for a bowl berth when they come into Madison in a couple weeks.
At 4-4 (0-4), the Hoosiers are in no way in the Big Ten race. However, they only need two more wins to become bowl eligible, so they may actually have some motivation when they take on the Badgers.
Behind quarterback Ben Chappell (2,445 yards, 18 TD, 7 INT), the Hoosier "O" is actually pretty good. They're averaging over 29 points a game and could certainly pose some problems for a Badger "D" that has struggled somewhat against the pass.
On the other hand, Indiana's defense doesn't do the offense a whole lot of favors. They're giving up close to 30 points a game and won't come close to stopping the Badgers.
On paper it could be an interesting game, but the home-field advantage could turn this one into a blowout quickly.
Prediction: Wisconsin 45, Indiana 20
Sat. November 20, @ Michigan
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Yes, Michigan is struggling as of late (losers of their last three). Yes, the Wolverine defense is one of the worst in the country (giving up 30 points a game). Yes, Rich Rod is once again on the hot seat.
But if there is one place Badger fans hate seeing Wisconsin play, it's Michigan Stadium. No matter how good Wisconsin is, they just can't seem to win in that place.
Remember 2008? The Badgers came in as the No. 6 team in the country and were upset by a Michigan team that finished 3-9.
Thus, the Badgers have to be very, very careful about this one. Quarterback Denard Robinson is still one of the most dangerous players in the country and could potentially gash the Badger "D" for huge yards both through the air and on the ground.
Wisconsin shouldn't have a lot of trouble moving the ball, but stopping it will be a whole different story.
If they play anything like they're capable of, they should still get the win. But there's just something about Michigan Stadium.
Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Michigan 27
Sat. November 27, Northwestern
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At 6-2 (2-2), Northwestern could arguably be the fifth-best team in the Big Ten.
No, they haven't really beaten anyone yet (their two conference wins were against Minnesota and Indiana), but they are still a very dangerous team. Just ask Michigan State, who needed two touchdowns in the final minutes to hold off the Wildcats two weeks ago.
Behind the arm and legs of quarterback Dan Persa (2,062 passing yards, 12 TD, 360 rushing yards), Northwestern is averaging almost 27 points a game.
Plus, unlike the other teams Wisconsin faces in November, the Wildcats actually play a little defense, allowing only 20.3 points a game.
However, they'll be facing a Badger squad playing their final home game of the season—not to mention a BCS or possibly even a Rose Bowl berth may be on the line.
Don't expect an upset here.
Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Northwestern 13