While Coastal Carolina-Liberty grabbing the spotlight as College Gameday’s setting this week, another game has unique appeal in its historical precedence. That game is Indiana’s game against Wisconsin this Saturday. While Indiana has had a tortured existence throughout their football history, Wisconsin has had the complete opposite.
A strange theme in this series, is both teams hit their renaissances at different times. During Indiana’s mini-Golden Age of four straight bowl appearances from 1986-1989 under Bill Mallory, with the legendary Anthony Thompson at running back, Wisconsin went 9-36. Even then, the Hoosiers and Badgers only played twice in 1986 and 1989, the first two games of Indiana’s five-game win streak, their longest in the series. These wins alone count for five of the Hoosiers’ 18 wins in the series.
The trend of incongruent ranked seasons persists further back, as Wisconsin went 4-7 when Indiana topped out at #19 in the AP Poll and went to the Holiday Bowl in 1979 and when Wisconsin went winless in 1967 and 1968, when Indiana was a regular in the polls. Then there’s the instances where the teams did not play in Indiana’s ranked years, as this occurred in 1937, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1948, and 1950.
This brings us to the one ranked matchup in the series, the 1994 game. Indiana came in ranked #25 after an 8-4 record the year prior and a 3-0 start against the likes of Cincinnati, Kentucky, and Miami (OH). The Badgers came in at #16 after their Rose Bowl campaign the year prior. The Badgers trounced Indiana by a score of 62-13, yet the game really had no national implication as Indiana went 6-5 and stayed home for bowl season and Wisconsin settled for the Hall of Fame Bowl against Duke, ending with a 7-4-1 record.
Now one score and seven years later, these two teams are ranked again and playing each other! Yet, it is more than just a formality. #12 Indiana’s path to its first major bowl since the 1968 Rose Bowl hits another challenge, as they are two touchdown underdogs to Wisconsin.
The Badgers have New Year’s Six designs as well, sitting at #16 in the CFP poll. With some help, two more wins can put them in the New Year’s Six, despite not being eligible for the Big Ten title game. More has been at stake than ever in this game, which is enough reason to soak in the rare species of “Nationally Important Indiana-Wisconsin Game”