Three Days and Counting

Indiana is riding an emotional high after back-to-back wins over Illinois and Iowa, but its new-found confidence will be put to the ultimate test this weekend when Terry Hoeppner's team travels to Columbus, Ohio, to face the top-ranked Buckeyes...

Déjà vu? – Don't buy the "nothing to lose, everything to gain" theory that's been bantered about concerning this match-up. Indiana's players have plenty on the line when they venture into Ohio Stadium for Saturday's game against the top-ranked Buckeyes. What does Indiana have to lose (besides potentially a game)? The momentum it's built with it's first back-to-back Big Ten wins since 2001, coupled with the confidence that's come along with it.

A year ago Indiana found itself in a similar situation six games into the season, sitting at 4-2. Despite losses to Wisconsin and Iowa, the Hoosiers had been able to move the ball against both squads and ultimately lost because of their inability to eliminate the big play from the opponents' arsenal. But the outcomes didn't leave them feeling out-manned. Then Ohio State arrived in Bloomington. The Buckeyes not only beat the Hoosiers 41-10, but limited the IU attack to 137 yards of total offense.

That was the second of what turned out to be six straight losses for the Hoosiers to finish the season. After the OSU loss Indiana lost its final four games by an average of 26 ½ points, and those losses came to four teams (Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan and Purdue) that combined to go just 24-22 a year ago.

Indiana may very well may lose to OSU Saturday, but how they do so could have an impact on how the rest of the season unfolds.

Tedd Ginn, Jr.'s Big Plays- Ted Ginn didn't build his national reputation against the Hoosiers, but his exploits in two games against IU haven't hurt. As a true freshman in 2004 he scored on a 59-yard pass from Troy Smith for his first career touchdown reception. Then, a year ago, he ended an early season slump with a 279-all-purpose-yard afternoon in Ohio State's 41-10 victory in Bloomington. That included 110 yards in both punt and kickoff returns, coupled with 59 receiving yards as well.

Indiana has enough to worry about with the likes of Troy Smith and Buckeye tailback Antonio Pittman, so the last thing IU Coach Terry Hoeppner's squad can afford to do is give up an over-the-top touchdown pass to Ginn or a return for a score on special teams. Ginn has already scored on one punt return for a score this season, and he leads the conference with a 13.3 yards/return average on punts. It will be IU punter Tyson Beattie's responsibility to get plenty of hang time on his kicks so the coverage units can wrap up Ginn before he gets going – because once he does that, Indiana doesn't have anyone with the speed to chase him down.

Indiana's Youngsters on the Biggest of Stages - The Hoosiers have a special opportunity to go up against the No. 1 team in the nation – an IU team hasn't done that since 1998 – but they'll go to Columbus with a very young team that has quite a few players who haven't experienced an atmosphere like the Horseshoe.

Start with quarterback Kellen Lewis. The Hoosiers' redshirt freshman has performed very well in road victories at Ball State and Illinois, but he'll be making just his fifth career start this weekend. On top of that, in his first two road games he played in front of a combined 66,819 fans (23,813 at Ball State, 43,006 at Illinois). This weekend he'll be facing not only the nation's No. 1 team, but he'll do so in front of more than 105,000 fans.

It's not only Lewis, either. Youngsters such as safety Austin Thomas, linebackers Will Patterson and Josh Bailey, defensive end Jammie Kirlew, and offensive linemen Rodger Saffold and Pete Saxon will be critical to the Hoosiers' success on both sides of the ball, and none of them have played in front of anything remotely close to what they're going to see this weekend.

What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction Top Stories