Three Days and Counting

With the Hoosiers season opener against Indiana State now just three days away, HoosierNation.com takes a closer look at three big concerns heading into Saturday night's 8 p.m. contest...

Keeping the Emotions in Check - This IU football team has had to face the reality of Terry Hoeppner's illness and then passing on a handful of occasions. From his absence at spring practice to the news of his passing to the Celebration of Life ceremony, it's been a difficult off-season for this team. They'll revisit things again Saturday when they play their first game after Hoeppner's passing.

It will be an emotion game, and it figures to reach a head before the game when IU plans to re-play the Terry Hoeppner video that was shown at the Celebration of Life ceremony in June. Some of the players I've talked with have said they don't know if they'll be able to watch the video because they don't know if they can keep their emotions in check as they gear up for the ISU opener.

IU Coach Bill Lynch admits it's impossible to know just how everyone will handle the emotions of the moment.

"I don't really have an answer for you on that," Lynch said. "I think it's one of those things that until you experience it, you just don't know. Each guy will experience it in his own way. I certainly think that Coach Hoeppner and his influence is all around this football program and has been since the day he came. There is so much of him that is still around here, from the sayings to the signs, and I'm sure our players are looking forward to it as well. But how each guy reacts to it is hard to say, but it is certainly something we are looking forward to and not shying away from. I will be very meaningful, not only to the fans but to the players and coaches and staff as well."

How will the Hoosier Secondary match up against ISU QB Reilly Murphy - While it might not be a huge concern for the Hoosiers, it's going to be interesting to see just how improved this IU secondary is from a year ago. During camp, Tracy Porter has looked like an All-Big Ten caliber corner, Leslie Majors has been singled out as the most improved player from last fall, and Nick Polk has looked like a big-hitting, big-play specialist at free safety. But that was camp, and they be tested by Murphy, who figures to put it up quite a bit on Saturday. The Hoosier coaches want to see if the corners look as good in a game as they have in practice, and just how Polk responds to his first game action at safety. Indiana figures to win this game handily, but if the Sycamores are able to move the ball up and down the field, that's a concern as the schedule gets tougher beginning next week at Western Michigan.

Can the Hoosiers stay healthy? - There's more depth on this year's team than in some time, but there are still a handful of players they can ill-afford to lose. Tops among those are quarterback Kellen Lewis, wide receiver James Hardy, cornerback Tracy Porter and defensive tackle Greg Brown, among others. Fall camp showed just how fragile things can be, when in one day Hardy, Porter and Brown all went down with injuries, none of which turned out to be serious enough to keep the players shelved for the opener. But it's a reminder how a team's fortunes can change quickly due to an injury or two, and the Hoosiers desperately want to avoid that on Saturday.

In a game that figures to be lopsided in the Hoosiers' favor, look for the Hoosiers to open it up early, try to race to a comfortable lead, and try to rest some of those players for next week's match-up in Kalamazoo. Indiana would love to get some extended work for back-up quarterback Ben Chappell, a redshirt freshman who hasn't taken a snap in a game since his senior season at Bloomington South H.S.

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

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