Will this one be as easy as it appears it should be on paper?
After all, this is a Western Kentucky team that has lost 22 straight dating back to September of 2008. Of those 22 straight setbacks, eight have been by at least 20 points and nine more have been by at least 10 points, leaving only five times that the Hilltoppers have been within single digits of an opponent in the last 24 months.
Despite that run of futility, WKU has a couple of things to point to as reasons for optimism Saturday afternoon. Coach Willie Taggart's team has already played both Nebraska and Kentucky on the road in the opening two weeks, so the caliber of athlete that Indiana boasts won't come as any surprise. While both resulted in lopsided losses, WKU tailback Bobby Rainey was able to run the ball with success against both teams, piling up 339 yards and three scores in the two games combined.
Western Kentucky is also expecting a near capacity crowd at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium, which will be hosting a Big Ten team for the first time ever.
"They get a Big Ten school to come in and play at their stadium and they've probably have been pointing to it for a long time," IU Coach Bill Lynch said.
While WKU's success running the ball and the fact IU is going on the road – which has rarely had a positive result over the years – are reasons for concern, Indiana can take comfort in the fact its offense should have very little problem against the Hilltoppers' defense.
After two games, WKU ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in virtually every defensive category, including rushing defense (247.5 – 112th), pass defense efficiency (200.9, 119th), total defense (509.0, 116th) and scoring defense (56.0, 119th). Opposing teams are averaging 6.4 yards/rush and nearly 11.0 yards/pass attempt against a Hilltoppers defense that has already surrendered four plays of 40 yards or more this season.
That should pave the way for very big days from Ben Chappell, Darius Willis, and IU's stable of wide receivers. Assuming the Hoosiers can avoid turning the ball over or committing a rash of penalties, they should threaten the 500-yard total offense plateau and score plenty of points Saturday afternoon. Rainey figures to have a solid day running the ball for WKU, but the Hilltoppers don't have enough firepower to keep pace with Indiana's offense.
Hoosier Nation's Prediction: Indiana 48, Western Kentucky 21.
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
WKU PREVIEW: One Day and Counting
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