No. 10 Indiana Set For Top-25 Road Matchup at No. 18 Wisconsin

Here's what you need to know for Indiana's top-25 road game at No. 18 Wisconsin this Saturday.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There's not a whole lot of game footage on No. 18 Wisconsin, who has only played three games this season.

The Badgers have had two explosive performances, coming against Illinois and Michigan, but then had a difficult outing against Northwestern.

Heading into this Saturday, Wisconsin has two quarterbacks that will be ready to play. For the first time this season, QB Jack Coan will be available.

Coan, who was supposed to be the original starter, suffered a right foot injury on Oct. 3 and underwent surgery four days later.

In replacement of Coan, redshirt freshman Graham Mertz has performed pretty well this season.

Through three games, Mertz has thrown for 605 yards and eight touchdowns.

"I think for a young player, Graham Mertz is very efficient with what they ask him to do. As always, you see a guy grow, build, take his licks a couple times and then answer back," Indiana defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said. "If you look at how he started the season against Illinois, he was 20-of-21 with 248 yards, had five touchdowns and no interceptions. You cannot ask for more out of a young quarterback in terms of efficiency. I think he does a nice job of keeping them out of negative situations."

But in Mertz's most recent outing, which was Nov. 21, he struggled.

He has three interceptions all season, and all three came against Northwestern.

Indiana leads the nation in interceptions this season with 16, so if Mertz's confidence is shaken, the Hoosiers' secondary will surely take advantage.

"Northwestern did some things that confused him and threw him off balance, which has been the MO of our defense all season long, so we have to be able to do those things," Wommack said. "When you can attack a quarterback, whether you are confusing him on the back end or you are hitting him in the backfield, you do not have to play against the same efficiency that you do when the game starts."

On the defensive side of the ball, Wisconsin is as advertised — strong, physical and sound.

With Jack Tuttle making his first-career start on Saturday, it's no secret the Badgers are going to try making things difficult right out of the gates and try to apply a lot of pressure on Tuttle.

"They have played really good defense for a really long time," Indiana head coach Tom Allen said.

Expect to see more of the wildcat formation from the Hoosiers this Saturday as well. That's not to say Tuttle can't throw the ball, but it worked so well against Maryland to finally spark the run game that it will certainly be used again going forward.

Indiana ran it so effectively against the Terrapins that it could even potentially set up a pass play from that formation.

"I would try to take advantage of that opportunity for sure," running back Stevie Scott said. "I'm definitely just one of those players that tries to make a play at any given moment to help the team win. If I gotta go out there in the wildcat and pass it, I'm gonna pass it, throw it, turn into a QB for the moment."

Allen has never defeated Wisconsin during his tenure as head coach at Indiana. The last time the Hoosiers and the Badgers met was in 2017, and Wisconsin won 45-17 in Bloomington. 

Wisconsin is currently favored over Indiana by two touchdowns, which is due in large part to the fact Michael Penix Jr. is out for the season.

But Indiana won't be fazed this Saturday without Penix. The Hoosiers have a ferocious defense and numerous weapons on offense to take the fight to the Badgers.

"They are really impressive. We have not played them for a couple of years, but the last time we did was in 2017," Allen said. "That was an impressive team they brought to Bloomington. I left even more impressed after playing them. 

"We know that we have a fight on our hands up there in Madison. We have to have a great week of preparation to play our best football."

Related Stories:

  • D.K. BONHOMME IMPRESSING THIS SEASON: The growth from Indiana linebacker D.K. Bonhomme this season has been huge for the defense. CLICK HERE
  • INDIANA SECONDARY CAN REACH NEXT LEVEL: Jaylin Williams believes the Hoosiers' secondary, as good as they've played, still have room to improve. CLICK HERE
  • JACK TUTTLE READY TO BE STARTER: Here's some background and quotes on Indiana's new starting quarterback Jack Tuttle. CLICK HERE
  • PENIX OUT FOR SEASON: Michael Penix Jr. tore his ACL against Maryland and will be out for the year. CLICK HERE