ARKANSAS STATE: Three Days and Counting

Hoosier Nation continues its day-by-day preview of IU's Homecoming contest against Arkansas State. Today, we look at three of the key match-ups in Saturday afternoon's game...

IU LBs Leon Beckum, Jeff Thomas and Tyler Replogle vs. ASU QB Ryan Aplin – Another week, another shot at a mobile quarterback for the Indiana defense. The Hoosiers have been either abused to embarrassed the last two weeks against two of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks in Michigan's Denard Robinson and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor. Robinson came up six yards shy of the 500-yard mark two weeks ago, while a less-than-100-percent Pryor had a career day with 334 yards passing against the IU secondary Saturday. Now, Indiana gets another shot when it goes up against the sophomore Aplin. This 6'1", 205-pounder doesn't have the reputation of the others, but he's rushed for at least 60 yards in three of his last four games, had a 438-yard passing day earlier this season against Louisiana-Lafayette, and should present his fair share of problems. It will fall to the Hoosier linebackers to make sure he doesn't bust any big gainers when he looks to run, and they'll play an equally important role in taking away some of the underneath throws. Some signs of improvement against the dual –threat quarterback is critical not only in this game, but in a couple of games coming up the following two weeks that IU likely has circled as potential wins. Both Northwestern's Dan Persa and Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaass are capable of hurting defenses through the air or on the ground, and IU can't afford to be scorched by that duo if they hope to emerge victorious.

IU's Defensive Front vs. ASU Offensive Line on Third and Long – After back-to-back losses against Michigan and Ohio State, the Arkansas State game is about more than just IU getting back in the win column and feeling better about itself. It's also about fixing some things that have ailed the team as of late, and nothing has been a bigger problem than IU's issues defensively. Big plays and missed tackles have been the norm in recent weeks, and as a result the Hoosiers have suffered back-to-back losses. One thing that could help immensely would be if Indiana can start to generate a little more pressure on the quarterback. The defense did show some signs of that against Ohio State, sacking Pryor three times. That trend needs to continue this weekend against Arkansas State. Some of Indiana's issues in the secondary don't appear reparable, which means opposing quarterbacks will have open receivers to throw to if they have time to throw. Larry Black, Adam Replogle, Darius Johnson and Kevin Bush need to keep Aplin from having enough time to pick apart the IU secondary.

IU Punter Chris Hagerup vs. ASU Special Teams – with the thought that the Arkansas State game is one where IU needs to show some signs of improvement for the rest of the Big Ten schedule, it would be a good sign if Hagerup gets on track and becomes more of a special teams weapon than he's been to date this season. An All-Big Ten caliber punter, Hagerup is averaging only 38.8 yards/punt this season (10th among Big Ten punters) and IU is ninth in the league in net punting. Hagerup is coming off a solid game against Ohio State where he averaged 42.0 yards on seven punts, but even in that one his long punt of the day (46) came on a first-possession punt that he boomed into the end zone for touchback, negating an opportunity to pin Ohio State deep. Hagerup has clearly shown during his IU career that he has a big leg and can be a real special teams weapon for Bill Lynch's squad. The Hoosiers will need that beginning Saturday.

Coming Up
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 Top Stories