The wounded Badgers need just two more wins to clinch the Big Ten West title
The Wisconsin Badgers and Indiana Hoosiers meet up in Bloomington on Saturday in a key Big Ten tilt with College Football Playoff implications. The undefeated Badgers (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) come limping into the contest with a number of stars either out or questionable due to injury. The Hoosiers (3-5, 0-5) are coming off of a high-scoring shootout loss to Maryland and are still looking for their first conference win of the 2017 season.
An upset win by Indiana over a wounded Wisconsin squad would throw yet another wrench into the College Football Playoff process and make the race for the B1G West title a little tighter.
Wisconsin at Indiana
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Wisconsin -11
Three Things to Watch
1. Johnathan Taylor's status
The Badgers have a very simple recipe for winning this and all of their matchups this season: run the ball. Few players have had the success that Taylor has had toting the rock this season, and the presence of the Big Ten's leading rusher (and fifth in the FBS) would go a long way in sealing a tricky win on the road. But the freshman suffered a left leg injury in the second half of last week's game against Illinois and didn't return. He is considered questionable for this game and If he can't go, Bradrick Shaw likely becomes the bell cow for the Badgers. Though arguably more elusive, Shaw is nowhere near as effective a runner between the tackles as Taylor is. That's where Wisconsin's bread is buttered, and the Badgers need to be dominant in that facet of the game to get this win here.
2. Can the Hoosiers close the deal?
Indiana has lost three straight games that were tied or in which the Hoosiers were leading in the fourth quarter. Suffice it to say that taking care of the ball and killing the clock late will be key in this one. Indiana has the horses on offense to put points on the scoreboard — especially through the air. A wounded Badgers secondary leaves the door open for Indiana receivers Simmie Cobbs (above, right) and Luke Timian to have big days. If the Hoosiers can keep it close or take a lead into the fourth quarter, a big play by one of the receivers could end up being the difference.
3. The battle in the trenches
Despite the laundry list of injuries to the Badgers heading into this one, the Wisconsin offensive line appears to be healthy and firing on all cylinders. As a result, you may see head coach Paul Chryst choose to just pound the ball straight ahead until the Hoosiers prove they can stop it. It will be up to Indiana's defensive line to get a couple of stops and force Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook to throw the ball more than he wants — especially with a depleted receiving corps. If the Badgers are not dominating up front early, this one will get interesting.
The Badgers seem to know exactly what they need to do each and every week this season in order to get the win and go home. This weekend is not likely to be any different. Even with a wounded roster heading into Saturday, Wisconsin is the more talented and physical team on both sides of the ball. Look for the visitors to control the clock with the run and limit Indiana's offensive possessions. When the Badgers are on defense, look for them to pin their ears back and rush the passer as they show little respect for an Indiana rushing attack that ranks among the worst in the country. If Wisconsin can throw off the timing of the Hoosier passing attack, it should be all she wrote.
Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Indiana 13
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, Bleacher Report and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.