Magnitude of the Moment - Everyone on the IU roster is entering unchartered waters.
Indiana has a chance to win its fourth game in five tries Saturday when it takes on the 3-6 Gophers. Even more significant than that, though, is the possibility of virtually guaranteeing itself a bowl bid with a sixth win. Indiana has a chance to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994, and would be a near lock to go bowling for the first time since 1993. With bowl-eligible Big Ten teams contractually guaranteed seven bowl slots – and Ohio State and Michigan all but certain to be BCS selections – Indiana couldn't be passed over when invitations were handed out.
That would be a monumental step for Coach Terry Hoeppner's program, and Indiana's best chance to get that sixth win is against the Gophers. While Minnesota has been to bowl games in six of the last seven years they've fallen on hard times this season, entering this game with a stagnant offense, a generous defense, and an 0-5 Big Ten mark.
The bottom line is they're as beatable as they've been in recent memory.
This is a great opportunity for IU, but there's also plenty of pressure on a team that remains extremely young at just about every position on both sides of the ball. Will that get to the team, particularly in the early going? IU's coaches will need to make sure the players avoid thinking about the rewards of getting the win and instead simply focus on executing on both sides of the ball.
Be Wary of Turnovers- One thing Minnesota has done well this year is force turnovers. The Gophers rank third in the Big Ten with a +6 turnover margin, compared to Indiana's -2. In addition, Minnesota has recovered a Big Ten-high 11 fumbles, while Indiana's 10 fumbles lost is the second-worst total in the conference.
A couple of IU turnovers – particularly deep in Hoosier territory – could be the sort of remedy Minnesota's offense has been in need of. Minnesota has scored only 21 combined points in its last three games, but if the Hoosiers give quarterback Bryan Cupito a short field to work with, the Gophers' offense could come to life. Indiana did turn the ball over three times in the final 16 minutes of the Michigan State game and fumbled five times overall (losing two), so they'll need to do a much better job this weekend of avoiding those kind of mistakes.
One thing in their favor is the fact quarterback Kellen Lewis has been very good at avoiding turnovers. The redshirt freshman went more than 140 throws without an interception before throwing one late against Michigan State, his first interception of the Big Ten season.
Cupito Bound to Break Out…at Some Point- Minnesota senior quarterback Bryan Cupito isn't nearly as bad as his recent numbers would indicate. In Minnesota's last three games Cupito is just 40-of-77 for 364 yards, including zero touchdowns and four interceptions. The Gopher quarterback has been sacked 14 times this season after being sacked only three times in 2005.
But, this is the same quarterback who completed 20-of-34 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns earlier this season against Penn State and was 16-of-26 for 225 yards against IU a year ago. If given time to throw, he's more than capable of having a big afternoon against the Hoosiers. Indiana's front four needs to put pressure on Cupito, who had a couple of interceptions last week against Ohio State when the Buckeyes pressured him in the pocket.
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 Matchups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
Three Days and Counting...
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