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October 12, 2011

Struggling IU still presents challenges

MADISON - Indiana football doesn't necessarily exact fear in its upcoming opponent.

Collectively as a program it hasn't been all too successful for quite some time. While that trend doesn't seem to be in any sort of jeopardy - - IU is off to a slow 1-5 start this season - - there does seem to be an admirable amount of respect emanating from Wisconsin's camp.

"They've made some changes, but the biggest difference on film, in my opinion, is their effort," UW senior wide receiver Nick Toon said. "They're hustling. Guys are trying to make plays and they're finishing everything.

"They're trying to string the ball and they're just playing a lot harder this year and I think that will serve them well in the future."

That future Toon speaks of probably won't begin Saturday afternoon.

Wisconsin is a heavy 38.5-point homecoming favorite. Indiana's only win, meanwhile, came against FCS South Carolina State. Conversely, its four losses have come by three, three, three, six and 21 points, respectively.

These Hoosiers aren't exactly the Hoosiers that gave up 83 points before whimpering back to Bloomington a season ago.

They're not where they want to be, not by any means, but they're seemingly improving on a weekly basis.

"They're playing better and tougher," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "They're more aggressive on defense and they have a system and a scheme. I know a couple of the defensive coaches and I know the background that they're from.

"You can really see that the fundamentals are being stressed."

Through six games Indiana ranks among Big Ten teams are anything but impressive. The Hoosiers rank 10th in scoring offense, 10th in total offense, ninth in scoring defense, 11th in total defense, 12th in rushing offense and 12th in rushing defense.

Wisconsin, conversely, ranks first in scoring offense and defense, first in total offense, third in total defense, third in rushing offense, fourth in rushing defense and first in passing offense.

On paper, though UW probably won't score 83 points again, this one shouldn't even be close.

I'll say that. Nobody on the UW roster will.

"They're going to come out as hard as they can," UW junior center Peter Konz said. "Especially since they're coming back into Camp Randall. They're a team that wants to make a statement.

"They've played a lot of teams tough up to this point and I don't expect us to be any different."

Wisconsin and Indiana kick off Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. central.

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