There is, of course, one significant downside to the Big Ten Conference’s decision to realign itself into geographically correct divisions next season.
The University of Wisconsin won’t get to play Indiana every year.
Indeed, after playing the Hoosiers on Saturday, the Badgers won’t see them again until 2017. As they used to say back when Indiana was good at football 40-some years ago, what a bummer.
Having the Hoosiers on the schedule every year has meant a statistics-padding, confidence-building blowout victory for the Badgers for almost a decade.
UW and Indiana are the yin and yang of the Big Ten, with their games pitting the conference’s best rushing offense against its worst rushing defense, almost always with predictable results.
It was no different Saturday when 17th-ranked UW rolled to a 51-3 victory over Indiana at soggy, wind-blown Camp Randall Stadium. On UW’s first play from scrimmage, tailback James White burst through a gaping hole and raced 93 yards for a touchdown, setting the tone for still another UW rushing day that had reporters poring over the record books.
“To start off with one play that goes for (93) yards, that really got us moving,” tight end Jacob Pedersen said. “It showed us that, ‘Hey, we’re going to be able to run on these guys and we’ve got to keep going.’ ”
Actually, the Badgers already knew they could run on Indiana. For one thing, everyone else has this season. For another, no one runs on Indiana like UW.
With White rolling up a career-best 205 yards, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement each going over 100 and wide receiver Jared Abbrederis falling just short of that mark, the Badgers finished with 554 rushing yards and 676 total yards. Both figures rank second in school history. UW’s rushing total fell 10 yards short of the mark set last year — against Indiana.
This is a matchup made in heaven for UW and the Badgers took full advantage of it, running on 50 of their 65 plays. Even though the play-action pass was there all day, quarterback Joel Stave threw only 15 times because it was wet and windy and, well, that’s all that was needed.
“This is a fun team to quarterback,” Stave said. “Obviously, you like throwing the ball, but with the weather and taking what they’re giving you, (why throw it). ... When you’re averaging 7, 8 yards a carry, just keep gashing them.”
Actually, it was 11.1 yards per carry, another sign of UW’s rushing-fueled domination in this series. The Badgers beat the Hoosiers for the ninth consecutive season Saturday, with all but one of the scores lopsided.
In the past four years, however, backs such as White, Gordon, Montee Ball and John Clay have consistently overpowered Indiana’s defense and paced UW routs. The average score of the four meetings is 64-11. In those games, the Badgers have averaged 600.8 total yards and 447 rushing yards. They’ve scored 23 rushing touchdowns.
The Hoosiers showed up with one of the nation’s most explosive offenses Saturday, but its defense looked delightfully familiar to the Badgers. UW had seven rushing plays of 32 yards or longer in a game that showcased its outstanding downfield blocking and tremendous big-play capability.
White, who is finishing his understated but remarkable UW career with a flourish, was particularly effective. He topped his previous high for yards by 24 and his 93-yarder was the longest run in school history. In four games against Indiana, White rushed for 597 yards, six touchdowns and a 9.0 average per carry, all while splitting time at tailback.
“We’ve just had a lot of success against them,” White said. “The offensive line, everybody comes ready to play. We know their offense is able to score points, so we want to score points as an offense so we can take some pressure off our defense.”
The defense didn’t need it Saturday. Indiana had scored 28 or more points in 10 consecutive games, but UW held it to a field goal. Even that was a win for the UW defense because Indiana had a first-and-goal but had to settle for three points.
But it was UW’s offense that set the tone for the game by showing early that nothing had changed between the teams. After awhile, the Hoosiers started blitzing to stop the run, a gamble because, while it resulted in some stops at the line of scrimmage, it also left them vulnerable to big plays.
“They started doing run blitzes a little bit more,” White said. “If you’re able to pick those up correctly, you get big gains.”
UW always seems to do that against Indiana.
“We were confident in the game plan we had,” center Dan Voltz said. “We had a great week of practice and our coaches just put us in a really good spot to make big plays. We played well up front and it showed. ... When you play well against a defense like that, the results are going to be pretty good.”
And why it’s a shame Indiana is off the schedule.