IU QB Kellen Lewis vs. Iowa Zone Pass Coverage – Kellen Lewis will face a tough test this weekend against an Iowa defense that will play plenty of zone and will try to keep the big play out of the Indiana arsenal.
Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker won't throw a great deal of wrinkles at Lewis, instead opting to allow opposing wideouts to catch balls underneath for short gains. Once the wideouts catch the ball, though, Iowa has traditionally had big hitters and sound tacklers in the secondary, and this year is no different.
It will be up to Lewis to be on target with his throws and not try to force the ball downfield. That's something Illinois quarterback Juice Williams tried to do against the Hawkeyes in his debut as a starter, and the end result was a miserable 9-of-32, three-interception afternoon for the true freshman in a 24-7 Iowa victory. If the Hoosier offensive line can provide adequate protection Lewis will be able to move the Hoosier offense downfield, but it's going to require plenty of patience and long, sustained drives to get into the red zone.
There will also be a heavy burden on Indiana's wide receivers to be precise in their route running. What you see is what you get from Parker's pass defense, so the IU coaching staff should have a pretty good idea where the holes will be in the zone. But it's critical that James Hardy, James Bailey, Andrew Means and Nick Polk be disciplined in the depth on their routes so Lewis knows where they're going to be. That's particularly true in the red zone, where Iowa will tend to blitz more often in an effort to disrupt the quarterback.
IU LBs Jake Powers, Will Patterson and Geno Johnson vs. UI tailback Damian Sims- It's appearing more and more likely Iowa will be without the services of tailback Albert Young, a 1,300-yard rusher a season ago who missed last week's Purdue game with a leg strain. But there isn't much of a drop-off when Coach Kirk Ferentz turns to the 5-9, 185-pound Sims, who rushed for 155 yards in Iowa's 47-17 win over the Boilermakers.
In fact, Iowa rushed for a season-high 286 yards against Purdue, with third-string tailback Shonn Greene adding another 88 yards on 11 carries. Greene will likely see some carries as well if Young is unable to go this weekend, but Sims is the Hoosiers' biggest concern. He's a fleet-footed runner who is dangerous in the open field. He's averaging 5.9 yards/carry this season and has four runs of at least 20 yards. Against the Hoosiers last season he had only one carry, but that tote went for a 30-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that put the game out of reach for the Hawkeyes.
It will be up to Indiana's crop of linebackers to make sure Sims doesn't get into the IU secondary with a chance to make a big play. Missed tackles have been an issue for the Hoosier defense this season, and they'll need to do a much better job of wrapping up Sims or risk watching him produce a big run – and a big afternoon – at Memorial Stadium.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Things IU Must Do
On Thursday – Two Key Matchups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
Two Days and Counting...
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