Indiana is looking for a 2-0 start to the 2016 season when they host Ball State today at Memorial Stadium. Here are three keys to victory as the Hoosiers try to snap a three-game losing streak to the Cardinals.
1) Control the line of scrimmage
In their win over Florida International the Hoosiers did a pretty good job of winning the battle up front on both sides of the ball. Today’s opponent, Ball State, also got strong performances from their offensive and defensive lines in their win over Georgia State. It has been said a million times that football games are won up front, and that will be an important key for IU in today’s game. Indiana has a good offensive line and they need to do what a Big Ten line is supposed to do against a MAC opponent and that is push them around. The IU defensive line was a question mark coming into the season, but they had a good first showing at FIU, and they should get back one of their top players today in fifth year senior Ralph Green. Ball State ran the ball well against Georgia State and that will most likely be what they lean on today so it will be important for the IU D-line to be stout.
2) TDs in the Red Zone
The Indiana offense moved the ball well against FIU in game one of the season but it did not result in production on the scoreboard. The Hoosiers had nearly 500 yards of total offense but only turned that into 18 points from the offense. The biggest issue was not getting touchdowns when they got the ball into the red zone. Indiana should be able to move the ball just as well today against Ball State as they did at FIU, but they need to turn that production in yardage into production on the scoreboard. If IU is kicking field goals all day it could allow the Cardinals to hang around and give them confidence late in the game if it’s close. If the Hoosiers get touchdowns at the end of their drives instead of field goals Ball State will have a difficult time staying in the game. The Cardinals don’t have the firepower to get into a shoot-out with IU so they need to keep the score down to have a chance at the win.
3) Limit the big plays
One of the biggest issues the Indiana defense has had the last several years is giving up explosion plays that go for scores, or lead directly to a touchdown. The best way for a big underdog to hang around is to get big plays on offense and from their special teams that gives them cheap points. The IU defense did a decent job against FIU of limiting the big plays, but they did let a couple of receivers to get behind them which resulted in some deep completions down the field. Ball State is going to lean on their run game, but if the IU defensive backs make a mistake the Cardinals have a solid QB in Riley Neal and a talented receiver in KeVonn Mabon that can make them play. They also have quality return guys on special teams that are more than capable of a big return if they get the opportunity. The Hoosiers need to be disciplined and sound in the secondary and on their coverage teams today.