Don't let Western Michigan's 62-24 drubbing at the hands of West Virginia fool you…this won't be an easy game for the Hoosiers.
Sure, the Broncos will be without leading tackler Austin Pritchard, and they're unsettled at quarterback, where Tim Hiller was finally named the starter on Thursday. But this is still a team that heads into the 2007 campaign with bigger aspirations than either Central Michigan in 2005 or Ball State in 2006, and Indiana won those two games by a combined eight points.
The Hoosiers are coming off a 55-7 drubbing of Indiana State, a contest where they piled up more than 200 yards rushing and 500 yards of total offense. Western Michigan meanwhile gave up more than 300 yards on the ground and 500 yards of total offense to the third-ranked Mountaineers. That would lead some to think the Hoosiers will be able to march up and down Waldo Stadium's Field. But don't expect that to be the case.
IU Coach Bill Lynch remembers this team from a year ago when it led the nation in both sacks and interceptions and he's seen them on film as well and thinks there's plenty to be concerned about.
"Their defense is really physical up front," Lynch said Wednesday. "We have a good idea where they're going to line up, but they're physical and they do a great job of shedding blocks and getting to the ball, and their secondary is so fast."
On offense, Coach Bill Cubit was unsettled all week on either Hiller or Thomas Peregrin as his starter after some sub-par quarterbacking play against West Virginia, but Lynch says slowing them down won't be an easy task.
"Their offense has great balance run and pass and they give you a multitude of formations, and they do it out of the same personnel groups," Lynch said. "Coach Cubit has been a tremendous offensive coach."
If Indiana is going to fulfill its pledge to "Play 13," this is a big game to get in the win column. Win this one and IU returns home with a very good chance of starting the year 4-0. Drop this contest and things become much more challenging.
"Every game is big for us," said Tracy Porter, who will likely be matched up with Bronco wideout Jamarko Simmons. "You want to win every game on the schedule. We're taking it as a one game season. We'll focus on that, everything we have we'll use to get prepared for this game and we'll go out and execute."
Can the Hoosiers do that and pick up a road win over a MAC team for a third straight season? One of the keys will likely be limiting any big plays from the Bronco offense. That was a weakness a year ago, but IU didn't allow any plays of more than 15 yards in its season opening win against Indiana State.
"We want to win the big play battle each week," Porter said. "If we go in and do that no team is going to want to go thee or four yards every play down the field. If we make them do that they'll try to do something big and our defense will be in position to stop them."
The Broncos will give IU everything it can handle, but IU's improved defense and big-play offense will be enough for Lynch's team to emerge victorious.
HoosierNation.com Prediction: Indiana 31, Western Michigan 20
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