IU DTs Greg Brown/Charlie Emerson vs. Purdue Offensive Line – When Curtis Painter replaced Brandon Kirsch under center for Coach Joe Tiller's team, the Boilermaker offense became much more ground-oriented. That figures to be the case this weekend, as Indiana can expect to see Boilermaker tailback Jerod Void carrying the ball at least 25 times in Bloomington.
Brown and Emerson need to be able to get some penetration against a solid Purdue offensive line and keep Boilermaker Coach Joe Tiller from simply running the ball down Indiana's throat. Brown might the player who's set to have a breakout game this weekend. After losing his starting job early on this year to Emerson, Brown has battled back and has been starting since Russ Richardson went down with an injury against Minnesota. Brown had five tackles against Michigan last week, including a sack of quarterback Chad Henne. He has nine tackles in the last two games, having contributed four stops against Minnesota as well.
There's a possibility that senior Russ Richardson will be available as well, but even if he is able to go he figures to be much less than 100 percent following a knee injury in the Minnesota game. It will instead by up to Emerson and Brown to hold their own against a Purdue offensive line that is anchored by fifth-year senior and starting center Matt Turner. If Indiana can take away the Purdue ground game, it has a chance to pick up its first win in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket since 2001.
IU WR James Hardy vs. PU CBs Zach Logan/Ray Williams-Assuming Hardy is ready to go this weekend, Indiana will need a big game from its No. 1 playmaker if it hopes to knock off the Boilermakers.
Hardy has been nursing a slew of injuries all season, and it finally caught up to him in recent weeks. After putting up huge numbers in the first six games of the season, Hardy was limited to 11 combined catches for 114 yards and one touchdown against Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota. Hardy finally was forced to the sidelines late in the Minnesota game. He also missed the Michigan game in an effort to get back to full strength for the season finale.
Expect Indiana to try to get the ball to Hardy as much as possible. The 6-2, 193-pound Williams figures to be the best matchup for Purdue, since Logan is only 5-11 and 174 pounds. Williams has shown steady improvement since making the switch from wide receiver midway through the season, but this still figures to be a supreme test for the senior.
Terry Hoeppner knows how important this game is to his seniors, to his recruiting, and to his mission of convincing IU fans that the Hoosier program is headed in a new direction. With that in mind, his gameplan figures to utilize Hardy as much, and possibly more, than it has all season.
Special Teams-To say Indiana's special teams has been suspect would be a gross understatement. Indiana has consistently given up big plays on both kickoff and punt returns. Indiana's foes are averaging 23.3 yards/kickoff return and 14.2 yards/punt return, and they've returned three kicks for scores this year. While Michigan's Steve Breaston didn't score over the weekend, he had a pair of 40-yard plus returns that gave the Michigan offense a short field to work with, and they capitalized each time.
Purdue, meanwhile, hasn't been as special on its special teams this year as it was a season ago. Last year, Purdue blocked eight kicks, but this season the Purdue units have managed only one block. That one block, though, was returned for a touchdown, so expect to see the Boilermakers come after IU punter Tyson Beattie on a couple of occasions Saturday. The most dangerous player is Bernard Pollard, who had four blocks a year ago (two extra points and two punts).
While Indiana's special teams units haven't shown the ability to win any games for the team this season, what they need to do is avoid losing them with the sort of miscues they've suffered in recent weeks. A big punt return or kickoff return or a blocked kick is the last thing Indiana needs if it wants to win a fifth regular season game for the first time since 2001.
IU DE Victor Adeyanju vs. PU QB Curtis Painter- Indiana will need a big game from senior defensive end Victor Adeyanju in his last game as a Hoosier. After some shaky performances in losses to Northwestern, Wisconsin and Penn State, Painter has been gaining confidence as of late. After throwing three interceptions in the loss at Wisconsin, Painter has been picked off only twice in the last three games, and the Boilermakers have responded with a pair of wins.
That said, Painter is still a first-year starter who can be forced into ill-advised throws if faced with pressure. Adeyanju is the most likely to provide that pressure. He leads the team in both sacks (6 ½) and tackles for loss (11), despite often being double teamed. He'll likely face his share of double teams this weekend as well, as Tiller can use 6-8, 282-pound sophomore right tackle Sean Sester and 6-6, 260-pound tight end Charles Davis to slow down Adeyanju. But Purdue likes to involve Davis in the passing game (24 receptions, which ranks third on the team), and that will give Adeyanju some one-on-one opportunities.
Indiana is terribly thin at cornerback, and that will be magnified this weekend against Purdue's spread formation. If Painter has time to throw, he'll likely enjoy the same sort of success that just about every other Big Ten quarterback has had against Indiana. It will be up to the defensive line, and most specifically Adeyanju, to keep the sophomore quarterback from getting comfortable in the pocket.
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
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday
Four Days And Counting...
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