Kevin Wilson and his Indiana football team will be looking for an undefeated non-conference slate when they host 3-0 Wake Forest this weekend at Memorial Stadium. Peegs.com takes a look at five things to keep an eye on when the Hoosiers meet the Demon Deacons at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
1) Offensive Line
The Indiana offensive line has played solid this year, but this week there is a chance they could be without All-American Dan Feeney as they go up against the best D-line by far they have faced this season. If Feeney can’t go then fifth-year senior Jacob Bailey will most likely be his replacement. Bailey is an experienced lineman that has played a lot of football for the Hoosiers so he should be fine, but there will still be somewhat of a drop-off because of how good Feeney is. The other thing to watch on the O-line is how young left tackles Coy Cronk and Brandon Knight do against Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor. The redshirt junior for the Demon Deacons has recorded 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks so far this season. Cronk and Knight will have to be rock solid this week to neutralize Ejiofor and make sure he doesn’t get to Indiana QB Richard Lagow.
2) Special Teams
In the first two games of the 2016 season the IU special teams have had a couple of costly blunders. In the game at Florida International it was a bad hold that cost IU a chance at three points, as well as a missed field goal that also cost them points. In the Ball State game it was a missed blocking assignment that led to a blocked punt that the Cardinals were able to pick up and run in for a touchdown. Points will be tough to come by this week against Wake Forest so the special teams units for the Hoosiers need to be sharp and capitalize when they have the opportunity to put points on the board, as well not making any mistakes that lead to cheap scores for the Demon Deacons.
3) Ricky Jones
The lack of production so far this season from senior wideout Ricky Jones has been surprising, especially when you consider the IU offense has basically played without their leading receiver from a year ago in Simmie Cobbs these first two games. You would think that would mean more opportunities for Jones, but it hasn’t worked out that way. He has been pretty much a non-factor for the IU passing game early in the season and that needs to change starting this week. With Cobbs most likely done for the season the Hoosiers need to get Jones much more involved in the passing attack ASAP. Nick Westbrook and Mitchell Paige are putting up solid numbers, but IU needs Jones to be the guy he was last year when he had over 50 receptions for more than 900 yards.
4) Run Game
After two games the Indiana rushing attack is averaging around 216 yards per game. This week they will face a Wake Forest defense that is giving up about 80 rushing yards per game. There is probably not going to be a ton of big rushing lanes so the Indiana backs are going to have to fight for everything they get, and they need to be patient and disciplined when they get their opportunities. Obviously a good run game starts up front with the O-line and they need to get a push, and when they do the Hoosiers need to take advantage and get positive yards. Devine Redding is off to a good start this season and he will be the main guy on Saturday, but he will need help from guys like Mike Majette and Devonte Williams.
So far so good with the Indiana defense under new coordinator Tom Allen. The Hoosiers have not been perfect on that side of the ball, and there have been some mistakes, but there is no denying that this unit looks vastly improved over the defenses IU has put on the field the last few seasons. This week they get a Wake Forest offense that is not very explosive and will be playing with their back-up QB and without their top running back. If the Hoosiers can hold the Demon Deacons under 20 points it will be very difficult for Wake Forest to win this game, but if IU defensively is not sharp and they give up some big plays that lead to easy scores then Wake Forest will have a very good chance to win this game. The more the Demon Deacons have to put together 8, 10, 12 play drives to get touchdowns the harder it will be for them to beat Indiana.