With nearly four weeks of practice under their belt, IU offensive coordinator Matt Canada has no doubts about the Hoosiers readiness for Saturday's season opener against Western Kentucky.
"It's time to play somebody else," Canada said. "We've put in our time, we've run our plays, we're ready to go play."
In doing so, the Hoosiers will turn the page on last season's storybook season and try to put together back-to-back winning seasons and bowl berths. To do that, they'll need to take advantage of a very favorable 2008 schedule that includes eight home games, no Michigan or Ohio State, and a season opener against a Western Kentucky team that is in the process of making the jump from I-AA I-A.
While Western Kentucky might appear to be one of the bottom feeders at the I-A level, Coach David Elson's program has grown accustomed to winning with a great deal of success in the I-AA ranks. Western Kentucky won the 2002 I-AA national title and went to five straight I-AA tournaments from 2000-04. They're also coming off a seven-win season a year ago, going 7-6 against a schedule that included a couple of I-A teams as it began its jump to college football's highest level.
"I think any time a team comes off of seven wins, we talk about coming off of seven wins here," IU Coach Bill Lynch said. "They've won a lot of games over the last 10 years. They expect to win."
That may be the case, but don't expect to see a close ball game Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Indiana will certainly miss Greg Middleton and the other three players who have been suspended, but the team's much improved depth should be more than enough to compensate for their absences.
Expect to see the Hoosiers try to pound the ball on the ground and utilize its full stable of running backs against the Hilltoppers. Marcus Thigpen will start, but Demetrius McCray, Bryan Payton and possibly Trea Burgess could also get opportunities to have nice days on the ground.
To do so, IU's offensive line will need to have its way with a WKU defensive front that will be giving up 30-40 pounds per man.
"I think they've had a good camp, and I think those guys have gelled together," Canada said about the offensive line. "I'm anxious to see the m play. We're looking forward to the line being one of the strengths of our offense."
Western Kentucky would have a better shot of keeping this game close if it was more of a pass oriented offense and could take advantage of Middleton's absence and some new starters in the IU secondary. But WKU's spread attack is about running the ball first, which should provide a chance for the Hoosiers' new middle linebacker Matt Mayberry and others to have a big game.
HoosierNation.com Prediction: Indiana 37, Western Kentucky 13
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
WKU PREVIEW: One Day and Counting
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