Opposing Writer Q&A: Indiana State

Todd Golden is candid in this Q&A about what Indiana fans should expect from Indiana State in the season opener Thursday night.

Every week I will try to do a quick Q&A session with a beat writer from the opposing team. This first week, Terre Haute Tribune-Star Sports Editor Todd Golden, who covers the Sycamores, was nice enough to agree to be my first visiting expert.

Here's the result of that Q&A:

Hutchens: 1. How different will the Indiana State team look that will play Thursday night in Bloomington compared to the one that was here almost exactly a year ago this week?

Golden: "There will be familiar Sycamore faces -- RB Shakir Bell chief among them and most memorable to IU fans -- but this is not the same Indiana State team that gave the Hoosiers a scare last season.

"Most obvious is new coach Mike Sanford, but the entire linebacking corps -- which helped ISU rank 3rd in FCS scoring defense -- is gone. Defensive end Ben Obaseki, an All-MVFC player, is gone. All-American cornerback Johnny Towalid is gone. Safety Larry King -- a three-year starter -- is out for the season with a knee injury.

"In addition, ISU will have new schemes to learn on both sides of the ball. ISU will run a spread offense with a run focus ... the terminology, blocking schemes, etc., are completely different for everyone. ISU's defensive alignment -- a hybrid 4-3/3-4 -- is similar to what Miles ran, but its attacking principles are much different than Miles' read-and-react style of defense.

"It's a big ask for the Sycamores to square the circle of all of these new things while playing against a FBS team.''

Hutchens: 2. Do you expect Shakir Bell to have more yards, less yards or about the same this time around versus IU. Why do you think that way?

Golden: It's an interesting contrast as Bell is unquestionably ISU's biggest asset and run defense is undeniably IU's biggest question mark.

" Sanford is committed to using Bell in as many different ways as possible. Miles became over-dependent on using him between the tackles last season and Bell took a beating. Bell touched the ball on a whopping 40.5 percent of all of ISU's offensive plays in 2012, a huge number for someone who isn't a quarterback. So Sanford intends to throw to him more, use him more on pitch-outs, etc. I would expect ISU to test IU's run defense often from the start to probe it for weakness and to create doubt in the Hoosiers' defenders' minds.

" My guess is that Bell will gain fewer yards, but if ISU can find him via the pass, he could come close in total yards again.''

Hutchens: 3. Do you think coach Sanford will use a straight two-player platoon system this year at QB or will he go with the hot quarterback? Tell me how the freshman QB has looked in camp compared to the returning starter?

Golden:"Incumbent starter Mike Perish has worked with the No. 1 unit for nearly all of preseason camp, so I'd be surprised if he didn't take the lions' share of the snaps against the Hoosiers. Perish also had one of his best games against IU last season so that also works in his favor.

" While Perish is a classic dropback passer, Robert Tonyan is tall, athletic, and can run. As a redshirt freshman, he's still working on his touch and his reads and he missed part of ISU's scrimmage with a minor arm ailment. Perish was probably more consistent throughout the preseason.

" Tonyan is the future, but Perish will likely command the present. I think Tonyan will spell Perish for a series or two or could see action in short-yardage passing situations where his speed can be used to ISU's advantage if he needs to scramble for a first down.

" Sanford has been tight-lipped about the details of the arrangement, however, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.''

Hutchens: 4. Other than Bell vs. the IU defense, what do you think is the most intriguing match up position wise in Thursday's game?

Golden:" For me, it's ISU's secondary vs. IU's receivers.

" When you watch FBS vs. FCS games from the FCS perspective as I have for several years, there are areas where the differences in talent/skill set are subtle or nearly imperceptible, but one area where it's not is how big FBS receivers are and how comparatively small FCS corners are.

" ISU cornerback Calvin Burnett is an All-MVFC performer at this level, but he's 5-foot-9. Fellow corner Alex Stowers, who will be making his first career start, is also 5-9. ISU safety Donovan Layne is 5-11 and safety Mark Sewall is 5-10.

" IU's Shane Wynn is 5-7, but Cody Latimer is 6-3 and Kofi Hughes is 6-2. That's a huge advantage for a group that already proved its potency in the Big Ten last year ... and that doesn't even factor in the speed advantage that usually in the FBS team's favor too.

" In a FBS-FCS game, you can almost always bank on the FBS team taking advantage of its mismatch to set up a TD or score one. Wynn scored a 71-yarder last year for the Hoosiers against the Sycamores.

" If ISU can somehow avoid this on Thursday, it can remain competitive. But against the 17th ranked passing offense in FBS last year that's a tall order. ‘'

Hutchens: 5. What do you think will be the final score Thursday night and what do you think Indiana State's record will be overall for the 2013 season?

Golden: "I think ISU will hang in there for a while. If it can use Bell to pound an IU defense that's still trying to find its way, the Sycamores can remain competitive for the duration and perhaps win if it gets some breaks.

" But I think IU's offense is going to be difficult to stop regardless of who Kevin Wilson plays at quarterback. Even if Bell goes crazy, IU has the capability to match ISU score-for-score.

" I think IU wins 41-24.

" For the season, ISU has the difficult task of playing both IU and Purdue (for just over $800,000 combined) and it plays in the toughest FCS conference in the nation, one that includes two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State.

" That said, I think ISU finishes 7-5 and fourth in the MVFC. The FCS playoff field was expanded to 24 teams this season. ISU has a shot at a berth, which would be its first since 1984.''

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch.


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