A lot on the line…again - The last time these two teams met, Indiana's postseason bowl hopes were in the balance against a team that had lost five out of six and was winless in the Big Ten. This time, the Hoosiers can move within one win of bowl eligibility against a Gopher team that has lost three out of four and appears to be destined for the bottom of the league standings. Everyone knows what happened last time…Gopher QB Bryan Cupito threw for 378 yards, Minnesota jumped to a 35-0 lead, and the Hoosiers' postseason hopes took a crippling hit with an embarrassing 63-26 loss.
The concern is that Indiana could be almost too pumped up for a game that has a great deal riding on it. If the Hoosiers come away with a victory, they'll have six tries at getting that precipice win that will send them to the postseason for the first time since 1993. But if they lose, they'll still be two wins short without much room for error against a schedule that gets increasingly more difficult in October and November. These are facts that the team is well aware of, and should prevent them from having any sort of letdown. To the contrary, they could be almost too "up" for the game, which could produce the sort of mistakes that lead to big plays the other way. That's something for the Hoosiers to avoid.
Going up against another dual-threat quarterback – The Hoosiers are likely glad that they no longer have to face Bryan Cupito after he picked them apart a year ago, but they might not enjoy going up against redshirt freshman Adam Weber much more. The Gophers' signal caller is capable of running it or throwing it, and IU has had its issues with those type of quarterbacks this year.
The first was Akron's Carlton Jackson, who came off the bench in the second quarter to throw for 200 yards and two scores and run for another 71 yards and a TD in IU's 41-24 win. Next up was Illinois' Juice Williams, who totaled just 130 yards of total offense, but presented such a threat to run with it that tailback Rashard Mendenhall piled up 214 yards rushing in the Illini's 27-14 win.
Weber, meanwhile, is averaging 306.2 yards of total offense, throwing for 252.6/game and rushing for another 53.6. He's had a hand in 14 of Minnesota's 20 touchdowns, throwing for 12 and running for another two. His 67 rushing attempts ranks second on the team to Amir Pinnix's 81, and he's the second-leading rushing quarterback in the Big Ten behind Kellen Lewis. He's had issues with turnovers, but his coach says he's seen plenty of progress from him in the season's first five weeks.
"I think each week Adam has made good progress," Minnesota Coach Tim Brewster said. "He's making good decisions for the most part. We've got to continue to work with him taking care of the football. He's had some turnovers as a runner, and he's had a couple of decisions throwing it that we'd like to have back. But overall we're pleased with his progress."
Will Minnesota hit Indiana with a big return or two? - Indiana headed into the season expecting its return game to be one of its biggest strengths. But teams have made a concerted effort to keep the ball out of the hands of Marcus Thigpen, and the result has been an 18.1 yards/kickoff return average for the Hoosiers, a mark that ranks among the worst in Division I football.
Minnesota, meanwhile, ranks third in the Big Ten with a 26.1 yards/return average on kickoffs, and Jay Thomas ranks second in the Big Ten with a 31.3 yard average, including one that he's taken back for a touchdown. Minnesota Coach Tim Brewster has circled special teams as a potential difference maker in this contest.
"We've been pleased with our return game overall," Brewster said. "Jay (Thomas) had the 91 yard return against Florida Atlantic. He combines really good speed with some power, some strength. His ability to run through arms has been good. Our returns have been good. We feel we have two really strong threats back there in Harold Howell and Jay Thomas. Both are doing nice jobs with it. I think the special forces, special teams are going to play a very important part in this game against Indiana. We're going to have to do a good job."
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
MINNESOTA: Three Days and Counting
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