ARKANSAS STATE: Two Days and Counting

Hoosier Nation continues its day-by-day preview of the Indiana-Arkansas State Homecoming match-up. Today, we look at two of the biggest concerns facing the Hoosiers...

Can Indiana start winning the big-play battle? – Indiana's struggles with surrendering the big play have been well documented.

Against Michigan, four of the Wolverines' touchdowns came from at least 30 yards out, and a fifth was set up by a 46-yard pass in the closing minute. The abundance of home-run plays allowed Michigan to pile 574 yards on just 45 plays, a staggering 12.7 yards/play. Coach Rich Rodriguez's team did all of that in just 18:13, meaning they averaged nearly 32 yards per minute of possession time.

The Ohio State game wasn't a whole lot better. Each of the Buckeyes' first three touchdowns came from outside the red zone, including a 39-yard run and a 60-yard pass. Coach Jim Tressel's team averaged 7.5 yards/play, a number that would have been much higher had they not sat their starters for much of the second half.

Addressing the big plays on defense is a priority, but so is producing some more big plays on offense. As good as Indiana has been on offense, Coach Bill Lynch's team hasn't had many quick strikes as of late. The Hoosiers have only one offensive play of 30 yards or more in Big Ten play (a 46-yard pass from Ben Chapell to Tandon Doss), and both of their scoring plays of 25 yards or more came in the season-opener against Towson.

IU has some big-play threats at wide receiver in Tandon Doss, Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner, but their yards/reception averages of 14.0, 11.1 and 10.5, respectively, suggest there haven't been many look deep downfield. As the defenses IU faces continue to get more difficult, that quick strike ability will be important if the Hoosiers are going to get the Big Ten wins needed to become bowl eligible.

How long-term are some of the injuries that have hit the Hoosiers? – As Indiana readies for Arkansas State, it appears likely that it will be without its best offensive lineman (James Brewer) and its best running back (Darius Willis) for a second straight week. Brewer injured an ankle in practice last week and has been ruled out of the Homecoming game, while a nagging knee ailment has Willis' status very much in doubt for the Red Wolves.

Those offensive injuries came on the heels of the injury to the Hoosiers' best cornerback, Richard Council. For all of the ups and downs Council has had during his IU career, he had clearly established himself as the best the Hoosiers had to offer at cornerback, and he's out indefinitely with a knee injury suffered in the closing minute against Michigan.

Admittedly, none of those absences are as significant as it would be if IU would lose quarterback Ben Chappell, but each of those players were considered critical to the success of this year's team. Council won't be back anytime soon, and the fact that the Hoosiers are shuffling things on the offensive line hints that Brewer's status might be up in the air for the following week against Illinois. Willis, meanwhile, continues to be a regular on the Hoosier injury report with a host of ailments.

The absence of those players shouldn't prevent the Hoosiers from moving to 4-2 with a win against Arkansas State, but there appears to be reason for concern as IU gears up for a couple of critical Big Ten games the following two weeks against Illinois and Northwestern.

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