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 today's game with Penn State:
1. SLOW DOWN ON OFFENSE I'm well aware of how quickly Indiana wants to snap a play and keep the defense off balance and all of that. That's fine and as long as it continues to result in touchdowns rather than field goals that's clearly the bottom line. But here's the problem with it: It also forces IU's defense to be on the field more and that's not such a good thing. Indiana is averaging 5.9 plays on its 25 scoring drives this season. Those drives have covered an average of 62.1 yards and have used 1:48 on the clock. The quick strike stuff is good but it also means that the defense could spend more time on the field. So slow down a little bit, have a couple of 10-play drives and give the IU defense a chance to catch their breath.
2.PICK A QB AND STICK WITH HIM This always looking over your should thing has to get old for IU's two primary quarterbacks, Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. It's time to anoint Sudfeld as your starter and just go with him. This is an offense that is averaging 348.5 passing yards per game alone. The total offense number is 547.2 which leads the Big Ten. And that's with dueling quarterbacks. Pick a guy, stick with him and focus on moving forward with just one quarterback running the show.
3. DEFENSE NEEDS TO SLOW DOWN THE RUN The one thing Doug Mallory and his defensive staff have stressed throughout the last two weeks is that teams cannot come in a run the ball as effectively as both Missouri and Navy have done against the Hoosiers in Memorial Stadium this season. And now comes a Penn State team that has gained at least 193 yards per game on the ground for the last three games. In fact, three different PSU running backs have eclipsed 100 yards in a game this season. This isn't to say you just want Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg to pick you apart with his solid passing game, but rather it's important to put Penn State into more predictable third and long play calls.>/p>
4. MAKE THE FROSH QUARTERBACK UNCOMFORTABLE Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has looked very comfortable this season. And when he's comfortable he's effective. He has completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,027 yards and five touchdowns. He has had at least 250 yards in three of four games this season. The problem for IU is that the pass rush hasn't been Indiana's greatest strength. Somehow, though, the Hoosiers need to make Hackenberg uncomfortable in the pocket.
5. KEEP PENN STATE OUT OF THE RED ZONE When the Nittany Lions get the ball in deep it's almost automatic. Penn State has been in the red zone 15 times this season and has scored every time. Twelve times the Nittany Lions have scored touchdowns. So it's important to force Penn State to settle for field goals outside the red zone. It has a really good kicker who has connected from 54 yards this season but the point is simple: Don't let the Lions into the red zone to begin with.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch