There's been no talk of fireworks after the game, but expect to see plenty of them during Saturday night's season-opener against Western Michigan.
This match-up has all the makings of a contest that will give the Memorial Stadium scoreboard operator a workout. Indiana's greatest strength – its passing attack – figures to be Western Michigan's biggest weakness. After all, this is a team that surrendered more than 300 yards passing/game a year ago, despite an impressive 7-4 record and a 5-3 finish in the MAC. The Broncos have tinkered with their secondary personnel, moving talented DB Louis Delmas from corner to free safety in the off-season, where the Hoosiers still have a decided advantage with its crop of wideouts.
So long as IU's offensive line can provide Blake Powers with time to throw, expect him to move the Hoosiers up and down the field. Western Michigan has said it will rotate its corners to try to slow down IU's top target James Hardy, but 6-0, 165-pound E.J. Biggers and 5-11, 185-pound Londen Fryar don't have the size to match up with the IU sophomore. The same goes for Jahkeen Gilmore and James Bailey, both of whom will have opportunities for big games as well.
There's been plenty made about the need for IU to have success running the ball, but don't be alarmed as well to see Indiana come out throwing the ball early, basically establishing the pass to try to free up some opportunities later for Marcus Thigpen and Demetrius McCray to hit the Broncos with a big play in the running game. Indiana's tailbacks aren't really the grind-it-out, three yards and a cloud of dust types, but both have the ability to produce a big play at some point Saturday night.
While Indiana should be able to put points on the board, Western Michigan will likely be able to do the same. Sixth-year senior quarterback Ryan Cubit doesn't have some of the big playmakers the squad had a year ago, but he'll be working behind a huge offensive line that averaged 6-3 and 315 pounds. The Broncos probably don't have the big-play capabilities that the IU attack does, but they're more than capable of putting together some double-digit play scoring drives in the early going.
Look for these teams to answer each other with scoring drives in the first half, and for the game to be close when the teams head to the locker room at halftime. A big play from the IU defense could turn the tide in the second half, turning this into a much-needed – and very entertaining – win for the Hoosiers in their season oepenr.
HoosierNation.com Prediction: Indiana 38, Western Michigan 28
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Key Match-ups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday
One Day and Counting...
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