Two Days and Counting

What are a couple of the key match-ups in Saturday's season-opener between Indiana and Indiana State? has the answer, along with an in-depth look at those head-to-head encounters...

Greg Brown, Joe Kremer, and the IU DTs against the ISU offensive line - Brown in particular could be poised for a big game this weekend. The heart of the Sycamore offensive line has been hit hard by injuries, as No. 1 center Jack Byrne (knee) and his back-up Jacob Carpenter (knee) are both expected to miss the game, meaning Prenny Stokes could start instead. Stokes is a two-year starter at defensive end who appears to be the best of a bad set of choices at the spot for head coach Lou West.

The issues at center, though, aren't the only problem. Projected starting right guard Pat Burke is expected to be out as well with mononucleosis. In his place is freshman Ernie Lee, who is underage and a bit undersized (6'3", 270 pounds) to deal with the 303-pound Brown. The other guard is junior Janssen Hayes, a junior college transfer who will be making his first start at ISU.

It adds up to some pretty significant problems for West. The Sycamores have some decent offensive weapons in quarterback Reilly Murphy and tailback Tony West, but the issues on the offensive line could make it tough for West to run between the tackles and for Murphy to stay off his back. Big things are expected from Brown, who had 42 tackles and 5 ½ tackles for loss a year ago. Getting the season off to a good start could be huge for Brown, who is one of the keys to the Hoosiers having an improved defense this fall.

Tracy Porter vs. ISU Punt Coverage - Tracy Porter averaged 18.6 yards per punt return a year ago on 12 returns, including an 86-yard touchdown. Indiana State, meanwhile, allowed foes to average 11.7 yards/punt return and had two returns taken back for scores. On paper, that looks like a recipe for a big play on special teams for the Hoosiers.

Porter supplanted Lance Bennett as the team's punt returner a year ago and made a big impact. Ray Fisher and Nick Polk are other possibilities to be back on punts on occasion this year, but Porter was reliable fielding punts a year ago and then became a weapon when he had some space to run. That makes it a good bet he'll be back again when Indiana State gets to town this weekend.

Special teams looks to be a strength for this year's Indiana team. While Marcus Thigpen garnered national attention for his three kickoff returns for scores and 30.1 return average a year ago, Porter was equally potent. His 18.6 yards/return average was easily the best in the Big Ten, well ahead of much more celebrated players such as Ohio State's Ted Ginn (11.1/return, 1 TD) and Michigan's Steve Breaston (11.4/return, 1 TD). He teams with Thigpen to give Indiana one of the most potent return tandems in the nation, and both will have a chance to do something special against the Sycamores.

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 Top Stories