N'WESTERN: Three Days and Counting

Continuing our day-by-day preview of Saturday's Indiana-Northwestern game, today Hoosier Nation takes a look at three of the biggest match-ups in the Big Ten clash...

IU QB Ben Chappell vs. NU Secondary – In the early portion of the season, Ben Chappell was doing everything the IU coaching staff could have hoped for. As expected, he was amassing big yardage totals during the season's first month, helping guide the Hoosiers to three wins followed by a narrow home loss to Michigan. But equally important as the yardage totals was the fact he wasn't turning the ball over. In the season's first four games Chappell threw only one interception in 162 attempts – a marked improvement from a season ago when he threw a league-high 15 interceptions. That's changed as of late, though. In the Hoosiers' last two Big Ten losses, the fifth-year senior has been picked off five times in 74 attempts, and as a result IU has been soundly whipped by both Ohio State and Illinois. As IU gears up for a big game against Northwestern, Chappell has to limit – if not eliminate – the turnovers to give the Hoosiers a chance to win. He'll be going up against a Wildcat secondary that has already totaled 10 interceptions this season, so an error-free game won't come easily for Chappell.

IU's Front Seven vs. NU QB Dan Persa on the ground – Northwestern's junior quarterback presents as many problems for IU as any quarterback they've faced to date. While Persa doesn't have as big of a name as either Terrelle Pryor or Denard Robinson, he's been every bit as effective as either during the first half of the 2010 season. Persa ranks in the top eight nationally in both total offense and passing efficiency, and ranks 15th in the Big Ten in rushing with nearly 50 yards/game. As IU gears up for this weekend's contest it knows that Persa will likely put up relatively big numbers through the air, but it can't allow him to be equally effective on the ground. Northwestern has been very one dimensional this season, averaging only 147 yards rushing/game. Persa has been the biggest threat, nearly doubling the production of any running back on the roster. Indiana's hope is to shut down the Northwestern rushing attack, and then do what it can to limit Persa through the air. If they can do that, Persa has been sacked 25 times this season so the IU defensive front can get after him. But if IU is unable to make the Wildcats one-dimensional, then it will have little luck slowing down Northwestern's offense.

IU Special Teams vs. NU Special Teams - The bad news about Indiana having a pair of punts blocked against Illinois isn't just that it played a big part in the Hoosiers' 30-point loss. It's also now on film, so opposing teams figure to do what they can to produce a couple of tide-turning plays as well. That starts this weekend, when Northwestern figures to do what it can to try to apply pressure on IU punter Chris Hagerup when he is forced to punt. Hagerup had two of his five punts blocked on Saturday against Illinois, and now has had five punts blocked during his career. That's necessarily his fault, but rather the result of a breakdown of protection that's resulted in the negative plays. It goes without saying that IU can ill-afford any more blocked punts this weekend, but it would also serve them well if they could come up with a big return of their own on either a punt or kick return. The presence of Tandon Doss on both return teams makes that a possibility this weekend.

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

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