With every game that Indiana plays this season, we'll take a pregame look at five keys that the Hoosiers will need to be successful.
Here's the five keys for tonight's game with Indiana State.
1. SLOW DOWN Shakir Bell The key here is slow down. Not sure if you'll be able to completely stop him. Bell is one of those guys who just keeps coming at you and will take advantage of any small mistake. IU's defense needs to wrap up and flood to the ball. The Hoosiers also need to not allow Bell to get the big play. He's going to get his yards. Just don't let it happen on one or two big plays. It's clear that Indiana State's new coach is committed to the run and letting Bell have his way. The challenge for Indiana will be not letting him take over the game like he did a year ago in Bloomington when he ran for 192 yards against the Hoosiers.
2.ESTABLISH THE RUN In order for Indiana's passing game to really be effective the Hoosiers have to run the ball better than they have in recent years. Tevin Coleman is listed as the starter but expect both he and Stephen Houston to carry a lot of the load early. D'Angelo Roberts was the workhorse back against Indiana State last year with 22 carries in that game. He's probably the third or fourth option this time. The key for the running game will be for Indiana to prove it can pick up first downs in third-and-short situations. This has been a problem in recent years.
3. DEFENSE NEEDS TO GET OFF THE FIELD It sounds easy enough but it never has been easy for the Hoosiers. The catch phrase for the defense this year is tap outs. That's when Indiana is able to get off the field on third down. There's going to be a fan board that keeps track of tap outs during the game. Especially with a runner as explosive as Bell this will be a huge key in this game. Indiana cannot allow Indiana State to march up and down the field.
4. WIN THE FIELD POSITION GAME This has been another area of frustration for Indiana football going back to the Cam Cameron days in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Indiana's punting has to improve and Erich Toth with get the first shot and if he can't do it then IU will turn to Nick Campos. But a telling statistic with Toth last year was that his longest punt in 48 attempts was 51 yards. IU needs to be able to boom some long punt when it is punting deep in its own territory. This will be a interesting side story to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
5. SPREAD THE WEALTH The bottom line here is that the Indiana offense is filled with playmakers. Guys like Shane Wynn, Kofi Hughes, Cody Latimer, Duwyce Wilson, Stephen Houston and Tevin Coleman at the running back slots, Ted Bolser and Anthony Corsaro at tight end, and all three of the quarterbacks. The important thing here is to find a way to use all of those guys. Spread the ball around. Do not become too predictable. If Indiana can do that, it will score a boat load of points this season.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch