Kevin Wilson and his Indiana football team will be looking for a 2-0 start when they host Ball State this weekend at Memorial Stadium. Peegs.com takes a look at five things to keep an eye on when the Hoosiers meet the Cardinals at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
1) Defensive Line
In the win over FIU the Indiana defensive line did a good job stopping the run. They held the Panthers to only 63 yards on 21 carries. And while they only had one sack against, the Indiana front four did a solid job of making things uncomfortable for FIU quarterback Alex McGough and forcing him to make some throws earlier than he wanted. This week against the Hoosiers will be facing a Ball State offense that rushed for 325 yards and four touchdowns on 52 carries in the Cardinals win over Georgia State this past Friday. The best chance Ball State has to pull the upset is to run the ball on offense and control the ball which keeps the Indiana offense off the field. If the game turns into a shoot-out the Cardinals don’t have the fire-power to keep up with IU. If the Indiana defensive line can be stout against the Ball State rushing attack the Cardinals will have a hard time staying in the game.
Lagow was one to watch before last week’s game and he makes the list again this week. He was on the list before game one because it was the first start of his Indiana career and he was replacing one of the most productive quarterbacks in IU history in Nate Sudfeld. This week he makes the list because it will be interesting to see how much of a jump he makes with his play and his production after having a game under his belt. Lagow was solid against FIU but he did miss a couple of throws in the first half that could have gone for big plays. Some of that might have been due to nerves and being a little too amped up. Now that he has played in a D-1 football game look for Lagow to be a little sharper this weekend and to take advantage of those deep ball opportunities when they present themselves. If he is able to do that Ball State will have a difficult time keeping the Hoosiers out of the end zone.
3) Offensive Line
In their win over Florida International the Indiana offensive line had a solid game, but there was a stretch in the middle of the game where they had a little trouble opening holes in the run game and where they allowed the FIU defense to get pressure on QB Richard Lagow. This week they will be facing a Ball State defensive line that is not overly big, but it is one that was very active against Georgia State. In that win for the Cardinals their defense only allowed 77 yards rushing on 25 carries. Weather could be a factor this weekend so establishing the run will be that much more important for the Hoosiers. If the Indiana O-line plays their game it should be a big day for the IU running backs against the Ball State defense.
Ever since Tom Allen took over as defensive coordinator at Indiana the mantra for the IU defense has been taking the ball away from the opponent. In the win over FIU the Hoosiers did a great job of that as they were able to pick off three passes, with two of those picks coming from Indiana defensive backs. This week they could have more opportunities to get some picks against a Ball State passing game that struggled somewhat against Georgia State. In that game Cardinals QB Riley Neal only completed 15-of-29 passes and he threw two interceptions, including one that went for a touchdown. If the Cardinals fall behind and are forced to throw the ball more than they want to it could be another big day for the Hoosiers secondary.
5) Return of suspended players
Moments before the start of the game at Florida International the IU football program announced that six plyers had been suspended for "not living up to their responsibilities to the program at different times since the conclusion of the 2015 season”. Three of the players – wideout Simmie Cobbs, safety Chase Dutra, and defensive lineman Ralph Green – were listed as starters on the depth chart. The other three – defensive backs Jake Attar, Wesley Green and Noel Padmore are depth players that are not in the two-deep. Wesley Green’s suspension is indefinite so he is the only one of the six that is not expected to be available this weekend. Getting Cobbs, Dutra and Green back is significant for the Hoosiers. Cobbs was the leading receiver for IU last year, while Dutra and Green are expected to be top performers for the Indiana defense this fall. Green is especially key because the IU defensive line is a little thin and Green gives them a talented player that has a good deal of playing experience. It will be interesting to see how these players do this weekend, and how many snaps each one gets.