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 Illinois:
1. GET Minnesota IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR Indiana can't afford any lingering effects today from last week's 42-39 loss to Minnesota. With two of its final four games remaining against Wisconsin and Ohio State, both on the road, Indiana's postseason chances are slim but would all be eliminated if the Hoosiers are not able to beat Illinois today. Indiana's offense needs to be clicking today in the bounce back game with Illinois and the defense needs to play closer to how it did against Minnesota and not so much the previous two games against Michigan and Michigan State.
2.SETTLE ON ONE QUARTERBACK Nine games into the season, this shouldn't still be a lingering question but it is. Even though both Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson have been both effective and ineffective at times, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson and his staff needs to have a game where it just goes with one quarterback from start to finish. If it's the fourth quarter and the game is in hand, or completely out of hand, then use a second quarterback. But the back and forth, revolving door at quarterback, has made for more inconsistency this season than the opposite.
3. MAKE SIX TOUCHDOWNS BE ENOUGH Sounds simple enough, right? Indiana is averaging 42 points per game and has not scored less than 28 points in any game this season. And yet the Hoosiers are the 3-5 with four games to play. That's because the defense is surrendering nearly 38 points per game and 507 yards of total offense. The key today, like every day with Indiana football, is that the defense has to make enough stops to allow the offense to outscore Illinois. If not, it may take more than six touchdowns to beat the Illini.
4. GET PRESSURE ON THE QUARTERBACKIndiana has 15 sacks this season in the first eight games and has not applied anywhere near the amount of pressure it needs to in order to give the defensive backs a chance covering the opposing wide receivers. Last year when IU beat Illinois 31-17 in Champaign, Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was sacked seven times by the Hoosiers. Several of the players who had sacks for IU last year against the Illini are still in this lineup including David Cooper, Bobby Richardson, Ryan Phillis, Mark Murphy and Zack Shaw. This season those five players have combined for 4.5 sacks. That needs to change today.
5. BUILD MOMENTUM If Indiana is to have any chance of going into Madison next Saturday and coming away with a victory it needs to be riding a momentum high as it heads to face the Badgers. A big performance today against Illinois could do that, especially since Wisconsin allowed 32 points when it faced the Illini earlier this season in a 56-32 victory. Momentum, coupled with a 4-5 record, could be huge for Indiana as it heads to Wisconsin.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch