IOWA: Three Days and Counting

Slowing down Iowa tailbacks Albert Young and Damian Sims (pictured) is one of the biggest concerns for the IU staff this week. What else is on their mind? HoosierNation.com looks at three big concerns for IU heading into Saturday's match-up in Iowa City...

Can IU Keep A Handle On the Ball…and Its Season? - Indiana might be one of the Big Ten co-leaders in turnover margin, but it was turnovers that handcuffed the Hoosiers in last week's 27-14 loss to Illinois. IU turned it over four times – including three times inside the Illinois 35-yard line – which thwarted its chance at winning a fourth straight game to open the season.

Those type of miscues would be disastrous this weekend in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have struggled offensively, due in large part to a wave of injuries at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Their offensive struggles have been especially pronounced during the last two weeks. While losing games to Iowa State and Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes have mounted six scoring drives, and only one has been of at least 45 yards.

With that in mind, the last thing IU can afford to do is give Iowa some short fields to work with due to turnovers. If Indiana can stay mistake-free and make the Hawkeyes put together sustained drives to get points on the board, it will be in this game in the fourth quarter. But if Coach Bill Lynch's team turns the ball over and gives Iowa some cheap points, IU could be setting itself up for a long day.

Who Turns the Page First – This is a match-up of two teams that are reeling a bit. While the Hoosiers are 3-1, last week's 13-point loss to Illinois was a disappointing outcome for a team that has visions of the postseason. It also came against an Illinois team that, while much improved, was still just 2-30 in Big Ten games in the last four years.

Iowa, meanwhile, has lost two in a row and six straight Big Ten games dating back to last season. Coach Kirk Ferentz's team is also dealing with a slew of injuries, particularly on the offensive side of the ball where it's lost both starting wideouts, its tight end and a guard to injuries in recent weeks.

In my mind, that makes the game's first 20 minutes critical. Whoever can get off to a good start and put some of their recent disappointments behind them will put themselves in position to win a huge game on the schedule. It's particularly important for an Indiana team that has probably been a bit shaken by how convincingly they were beaten by the Illini a week ago.

Will IU be Better at Stopping the Run This Week - Iowa might be hurting at the receiver position and with its passing game, but it won't make any difference if the Hoosiers don't control Iowa tailbacks Albert Young and Damian Sims and force Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen to beat them through the air.

Last week, the Illini piled up 288 yards on the ground and ran the ball nearly twice as many times as they threw it (55 rushes, 28 passes). If Iowa has its way, it will try to do the same, leaning on its two senior tailbacks to methodically move the ball down the field against the Hoosiers and then complement it with the pass. Ferentz even talked about having both on the field at the same time this week instead of utilizing his normal tailback rotation.

Ferentz said there won't be a lot to be gained by looking at the Indiana-Illinois game tape and how the Illini had success running the ball, because Illinois utilized the option so much in amassing nearly 300 yards on the ground. While he might have to go about it a different way, there's little doubt he'll want to play to his offense's strengths, though, and that's his tailback tandem. It will be up to Indiana to contain them if it wants to have a chance at its first win in Iowa City since 1999.

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

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