Will turnovers prove to be a problem this weekend? – any coach can find reasons for concern when prepping for an upcoming opponent, but Bill Lynch will have to dig deep to find them from Akron.
The Zips are 0-3, having been routed by its two FBS opponents (Syracuse, Kentucky) and losing in overtime to a FCS (Gardner-Webb) squad. Offensively, Akron ranks 117th out of 120 FBS teams in total offense (242.3 yards/game), it has no running back that is averaging 60 yards rushing per game, and its starting quarterback is completing only 40 percent of his throws. With that kind of offensive ineptitude, Akron's chance to stay in this game will rely on Indiana being its own worst enemy with turnovers.
To date, turnovers haven't been an issue for this Indiana football team. The Hoosiers have turned it over only once, an early first quarter fumble by Darius Willis last week against Western Kentucky that eventually landed IU in an early 7-0 hole. Otherwise, the Hoosiers have been flawless. Ben Chappell threw a Big Ten-high 15 interceptions a season ago, but hasn't thrown one in 65 passing attempts this season (dating back to last year, he's now gone 80 throws without an interception).
So long as Indiana protects the football, Akron doesn't appear to have the ability keep up with the Hoosiers on either side of the ball. But if Indiana becomes turnover-prone, squanders offensive opportunities and gives Akron a short field to work with, this game could still be competitive.
Will Indiana be properly prepared for the Big Ten when the game concludes? – When this game wraps up, it will likely be mission accomplished for the Hoosiers as far as their win loss record. Indiana should be 3-0 come Saturday night, halfway to the required six victories to be bowl eligible.
But other than getting to the halfway point on the road to bowl eligibility, what else will be known about this Indiana football team? The Hoosiers' trio of victories will have come against Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron, three programs that are not only not big-names, but they're bad teams. Those three are a combined 1-8 to date and are statistically among the worst programs offensively and defensively in their respective divisions of college football.
That suggests it will be a monumental step up in competition beginning Oct. 2 when No. 21 Michigan arrives in town for the Big Ten opener. While the lofty national ranking might be a bit premature for a Wolverine team whose impressive wins have come against a pair of 1-2 teams in UConn and Notre Dame, it's still clear Coach Rich Rodriguez's team will have players that are of a completely different caliber than the ones Indiana has faced during the season's first month.
Working in Indiana's favor is the fact that it is a veteran team, particularly on offense, and it developed some confidence in what it could do against top-flight Big Ten competition a year ago thanks to narrow losses to Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin. But one has to wonder if it will be a shock to the Hoosiers' system (and potentially a shot to their psyche) in the early going next week against the Wolverines.
On Sunday – Five Numbers to Note
On Monday – Four Names to Know
On Tuesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Wednesday – Two Big Concerns
On Thursday – One Bold Prediction
AKRON: Two Days and Counting
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