Dan Persa, QB – Northwestern was supposed to have an issue in 2010 as it had to replace quarterback Mike Kafka, a second-team All-Big Ten choice a season ago who was taken in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. But there's been no drop-off at the position thanks to the play of Persa. Through seven games, Persa ranks fifth nationally in total offense (313.0/game) and eighth in passing efficiency (164.3). He's completed better than 3/4 of his attempts (156-of-206) while throwing for 1,850 yards with 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions. If that wasn't enough, he also leads the Wildcats in both rushing yards (341) and rushing touchdowns (6), and he's had at least 17 rushing attempts in each of the last four games.
Vince Browne, DE – if Indiana is going to be successful against Northwestern, quarterback Ben Chappell is going to need time to throw the ball. The Wildcat player most likely to keep that from happening is Browne, the Wildcats' 6'4", 265-pound right defensive end. Browne ranks second in the Big Ten and 18th nationally with six sacks, which have been spread out over five games. He's also totaled nine tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and leads all Northwestern defensive linemen with 26 tackles. He'll likely find himself lined up opposite Andrew McDonald, while IU figures to also utilize a tight end and/or a tailback to keep Browne from single-handedly disrupting the passing attack.
Jack DiNardo, DT – IU fans likely aren't familiar with DiNardo, who is in his first season as a starter on the defensive line. But they're certainly well aware of the family name. This 6'4", 290-pounder is the nephew of former Indiana football coach and Big Ten Network studio analyst Gerry DiNardo. Jack has been making a name for himself this season, starting all seven games and totaling 13 tackles from his right defensive tackle position. In addition to those stops, three tackles for loss and a sack, DiNardo also blocked a pair of kicks in Northwestern's win over Central Michigan.
Adonis Smith, RB - A true freshman from Oakland, Cal., Smith wasn't on the radar when the season started. But the ineffectiveness of Arby Fields (4 starts, 160 yards, 2.9 average/carry) and Jacob Schmidt (3 starts, 161 yards, 3.3 yards/carry) have created an opportunity for the 5'11", 185-pound Smith. Smith saw his first action of the season against Minnesota (two carries) and added another carry against Purdue, but it was the Michigan State game when he finally made a significant impact with 10 carries for 44 yards. He's still not listed on the Wildcats' three-deep at tailback, but don't be surprised if Smith is the Wildcats' top rushing threat Saturday afternoon.
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
N'WESTERN: Four Days and Counting
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