FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
1. GET ON THE BOARD EARLY:Normally when Indiana wins to toss at the beginning of the game the Hoosiers defer to the second half. If I was Indiana and won the toss on Saturday, I would take the ball and try to give my offense a chance to get on the board first. In a game like this one, it is really important to not get into too big of a hole. A year ago, it was a 14-14 tie with 4 minutes to play in the first half before Missouri scored two touchdowns right before intermission. It would be particularly beneficial to confidence of Nate Sudfeld and his offense if the Hoosiers could get off to a good start.
2. WIN THE FIELD POSITION BATTLE: I keep hearing about how the wind was so much to blame for IU’s poor performance in the kicking game last week. That may be true but the weather conditions should be fine Saturday in Columbia. And IU needs to take advantage of its good legs. Aaron Del Grosso is capable of kicking the ball out of the end zone every time and needs to do it, and Erich Toth needs to look like the kicker from last year who averaged better than 40 yards per kick and still knocked 18 balls inside the 20.
3. DEFENSE MUST ALLOW 35 OR LESS POINTS:It’s really simple math. A year ago, IU averaged 38 points per game, but the defense gave up 39 per game. Forty-two points against Bowling Green last week should have been enough to win. It will be no easy task but the IU defense needs to step up and hold the Tigers under 35 points. In fact, under 30 would really be the kind of goal that could lead to Indiana finding a way to steal one the on the road.
4. HAVE TO CREATE TURNOVERS:Indiana had one chance after another against Bowling Green to make plays on defense that could get them off the field. But two or three dropped potential interceptions, not recovering a fumble or costly penalties on third-and-long always extended Bowling Green drives. If Indiana has any chance in this one, the defense simply has to make plays. It’s that simple.
5. REMAIN IN STRIKING DISTANCE:This kind of piggybacks off of No. 1 but this is a game where you need to be in striking distance in the fourth quarter. If that’s the case, Nate Sudfeld is the kind of player you want on your team because he can make plays. Tevin Coleman is the same way. He can wear down defenses and make plays in the fourth quarter. But if the game is a blowout in the final quarter it’s all a moot point anyway.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch