No Michael Penix, no problem.
At 5-1 and ranked No. 12 nationally, Indiana has been one of the best stories of the season. Historically, the Hoosiers have been among the lesser football programs in the Big Ten — but the past two years have been different.
IU sustained a big loss last week when Penix, the team’s star quarterback, suffered a season-ending knee injury. That injury was a big reason why Indiana was a nearly two-touchdown underdog on Saturday on the road against No. 16 Wisconsin.
Filling in for Penix was Utah transfer Jack Tuttle, who made his first career start. He performed admirably, throwing two touchdown passes and enduring a bunch of hard hits from the swarming Wisconsin defense.
But the bigger story was the effort of the Indiana defense in an impressive 14-6 win.
The Hoosiers kept Wisconsin out of the end zone entirely and forced two critical turnovers. And when Tuttle fumbled in the third quarter to give the Badgers good field position, the IU defense forced UW to settle for a short field goal.
And when Wisconsin, down by eight, had a chance to tie the score in the final minutes, the Indiana defense stood tall. The Badgers advanced all the way to the Indiana 21, but the Hoosiers forced a turnover on downs with 46 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
What’s next for Indiana?
It marked the first win for Indiana over Wisconsin since 2002. IU previously had lost 10 straight in the series.
Indiana had previously broken a 24-game losing streak to Michigan this season. On top of that, its season-opening win over Penn State was IU’s first win over a top-10 opponent since 1987.
What a season it has been. And there is still more work to do.
The Hoosiers will close out the regular season next week at home against Purdue before another game on Dec. 19. Will that game be the Big Ten title game? The Hoosiers have just one loss this season, and it was a 42-35 defeat at the hands of No. 4 Ohio State.
If Michigan is unable to play Ohio State next week due to its COVID-19 issues, OSU would be below the six-game minimum the Big Ten set for conference championship game eligibility. Of course, the Big Ten is apparently mulling adjusting that rule. But if OSU has only five games, Indiana would be next in line to represent the Big Ten East against Northwestern in Indianapolis.
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