Three Days and Counting

As Indiana prepares for its Big Ten opener on Saturday in Madison, HoosierNation.com takes a close look at three big concerns for the Hoosiers against the 17th ranked Badgers...

Calhoun in Space – This is a traditional Wisconsin team, one that likes to pound opponents into submission with a bruising running game. But tailback Brian Calhoun isn't a Ron Dayne clone, someone who does the majority of his work between the tackles. Instead, Calhoun is a little more like former Badger and current Minnesota Viking Michael Bennett in that he likes to get outside, create one-on-one matchups, and use his track-caliber speed to produce big plays.

That's a concern. Indiana gave up an 80-yard touchdown run to Central Michigan's Ontario Sneed in the season-opener, and it gave up five runs of at least 25 yards against Nicholls State. Calhoun is not only the best running back IU has faced to date, but also the most capable of going the distance if he gets in a one-on-one situation and either makes someone miss or breaks a tackle. Calhoun's longest run this season is only 26 yards, but don't let that fool you – he's more than capable of producing big plays in the running game. He's not someone that Indiana will be able to chase down from behind.

Wisconsin will try to get him outside with plenty of sweeps, but they'll also do it by throwing the ball to Calhoun out of the backfield. The 5-10, 194-pounder had seven catches for 59 yards in Wisconsin's 23-20 win over Michigan, accounting for nearly half of the Badgers' 15 pass completions. Barry Alvarez said that Calhoun could also line up at wide receiver in some situations and run traditional routes as well. He'll be a load for the IU defense to handle Saturday.

Offensive Line Must Hold Its Own – The Badger defensive line was supposed to be a weakness this season, not a strength. After losing everyone off arguably the nation's best defensive front a year ago - Erasmus James, Antajj Hawthorne, Jonathan Welsh and Jason Jefferson – there were concerns. To compound problems, the team's top projected defensive tackle in '05 – Justin Ostrowski – went down with a knee injury during fall camp and starting defensive end Jamal Cooper was lost for the season with a knee injury against North Carolina.

No matter. The Badgers rank second in the Big Ten in sacks with 14, with defensive tackle Nick Hayden and defensive end Kurt Ware leading the way with three apiece. Wisconsin likes to rotate defensive linemen in and out, and every defensive lineman on the Badger two deep has at least one sack this season.

With Blake Powers making his first Big Ten start, the last thing he needs is to have a steady swarm of Badgers in his face when he's trying to throw. If Powers has time, the Hoosiers have the sort of playmakers at the wide receiver position to do some damage against the Wisconsin secondary. But protecting Powers is imperative. Indiana's offensive line has surrendered only seven sacks in the first three games, and it needs to keep Powers off his back Saturday.

Camp Randall Stadium – Indiana's played a road game in its season opener at Central Michigan, but that trip will pale in comparison to what the team will encounter at Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium.

Communication will be an issue in the Hoosiers' Big Ten season opener, as Badger fans at Camp Randall are known as possibly the loudest in the Big Ten. That will present a whole slew of issues that Indiana didn't have to deal with when it traveled to Mt. Pleasant, Mich. IU Coach Terry Hoeppner said that he'll have noise pumped in during several of IU's practices this week to try to simulate what Indiana will have to deal with on Saturday.

This will also be a big test for Blake Powers, as he makes his first Big Ten start. While he's performed extremely well in the first three games of the season, this will undoubtedly be his biggest test to date. Wisconsin has won nine in a row at home, and is 41-6-1 in its last 48 games at home against unranked opponents. Certainly a lot of that has to do with the quality of teams that Wisconsin has fielded in recent years, but it also has to do with a stadium that is arguably the most difficult for visiting teams to play at.

What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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