NW QB C.J. Bacher vs. IU QB Kellen Lewis - In a game that figures to put the Ryan Field scoreboard to the test, the two team's quarterbacks will try their best to come up with big plays – and minimize their recent mistakes.
Bacher and Lewis ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the Big Ten in total offense. Bacher does most of his damage with his arm (a Big Ten-best 307.0 of his 308.8 yards/game come via the pass), while Lewis totals 300.6 yards per outing by throwing for 241.9 and running for another 58.7 yards each time out. Combine that with the fact that Indiana and Northwestern rank 9th and 10th in the Big Ten in total defense, and everything points to a couple of huge games for these two quarterbacks.
Each coach knows what the opposing quarterback is capable of doing.
"Kellen [Lewis] is playing at a really high level, he is making great decisions with the football," said Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald. "He is a tremendous athlete that plays within the framework of what they're doing, he doesn't try to force things, he's got 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions, which shows you he's making really good decisions."
Bacher, meanwhile, will give Indiana's defense headaches as well.
"He is a very good passer with a quick release," said IU Coach Bill Lynch. "He is a quick guy. He can run, but that is not his first thing. He is very accurate, and again he gets rid of it. He is pretty aware. He is a good quarterback, particularly in the spread."
While both are capable of big plays, they've each been mistake-prone as of late. Bacher has thrown six of his 14 interceptions in the last two weeks, while Lewis has three interceptions and six fumbles in the last three weeks. Whichever quarterback can continue to make big plays – while limiting the mistakes – will lead their team to a win and possibly to a bowl game as well.
NW TB Tyrell Sutton vs. IU OLBs Geno Johnson and Will Patterson - Whether it's in the running or passing game, Northwestern tailback Tyrell Sutton will put IU's outside linebackers to the test.
In the running game, Sutton is one of the league's best. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2005, Sutton rushed for 2,474 yards in his first two seasons in Evanston before being slowed this season with a high ankle sprain. He's been back for two weeks and is coming off his second 100-yard outing of the year. He's gifted runner who's thrived in the Wildcats' spread formation, finding seams and making Northwestern's attack two-dimensional.
"He is one of the premier guys in the league," said Lynch. "He is really good."
It will be up to Johnson and Patterson to keep him under wraps. In the ground game, Patterson and Johnson will have to be ready to wrap up him up and be aware of the delayed hand-offs that Northwestern likes to run. It's those kind of plays that the Wildcats have used with great success against IU in wins in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
But Johnson and Patterson will also have to be aware of Sutton's locale in the passing game as well. He's caught 16 passes in his three starts, including seven last week against Iowa. He caught a combined 84 passes in his first two years as a starter and scored four touchdowns, so he's clearly a dangerous threat in the passing game as well. If Indiana isn't care, Sutton is more than capable of having a 200-plus yard day in total offense, and that would be bad news for the Hoosiers if they hope to come away with a third road win this season.
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
NORTHWESTERN: Two Days and Counting
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