Terry Hoeppner knows where he wants to take the Hoosier program – where the Iowa Hawkeyes currently reside.
The Hoosier head coach said this week he's long admired the job that first Hayden Fry and now Kirk Ferentz have done in Iowa City, building a once bottom-rung Big Ten program into a perennial conference title contender and a regular in the top-25. This season is no different, as the 15th-ranked Hawkeyes' only blemish during their 5-1 start is a loss to No. 1 Ohio State.
"Iowa wasn't always what Iowa is now," said Hoeppner.
While Iowa might serve as a bit as a blueprint for where Hoeppner wants the Hoosiers to be ultimately, it's clear IU will have its hands full against a very good Iowa team this weekend. Senior quarterback Drew Tate leads an offense that piled up more than 500 yards of offense and 47 points last weekend against Purdue.
They did that without All-Big Ten tailback Albert Young, who missed the contest with a leg strain. Young might be out again this weekend, but Damian Sims (155 yards, 2 TDs vs. Purdue) is a more than adequate replacement.
"It doesn't matter who is playing running back, he'll be a hard-nosed running back," Hoeppner said. "They are a Big Ten title contender year in and year out."
One thing working in the Hoosiers' favor is the fact they played very well in Iowa City a year ago. Thanks to a 37-of-57, 360-yard afternoon from Blake Powers, the Hoosiers trailed just 24-21 early in the fourth quarter before ultimately falling, 38-21. That was the first of six straight setbacks to end the season for IU, but it does suggest Hoeppner's offense can be successful moving the ball up and down the field against Iowa.
Powers won't be under center this year, as redshirt freshman quarterback Kellen Lewis has supplanted him in the starting lineup. But he'll need to do much of what Powers did a year ago - taking advantage of the short, underneath throws that Iowa's defense will yield, and then hoping the wide receivers can do something with it after the catch.
Indiana heads into this game on a bit of an emotional high after last week's come-from-behind win at Illinois, something that could produce a quick start in front of the Hoosiers' home crowd.
"The win was really big for us," said redshirt freshman receiver Nick Polk, who figures to be a big part of the Hoosiers' gameplan for Saturday. "It had been a matter of going 2-4 or 3-3, so it was really big. It gave us confidence coming home it will help us out."
Indiana was in desperate need of a confidence boost after three straight losses at home, and a victory over a Big Ten team on the road – any Big Ten team – provided the players and fans with some much-needed proof that the IU program has made a positive stride.
If a win at Illinois was a baby step in the right direction, following that up with a victory at home against Iowa would be a quantum leap. Ultimately, though, Iowa will have too much firepower on offense and too many playmakers on defense for the Hoosiers to win a second straight.
HoosierNation.com Prediction: Iowa 38, Indiana 17
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
One Day and Counting...
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