MURRAY PREVIEW: Three Key Match-Ups

Murray State did something last week for only the fourth time in its last 24 games – it won a game. The Racers head to Memorial Stadium as huge underdogs against the Hoosiers, who handled Western Kentucky 31-13 last weekend. Today, we continue our day-by-day preview of the Hoosiers' week two match-up with "Three Key Match-ups" in Saturday night's contest...

IU Punter Chris Hagerup vs. himself – The Hoosiers' redshirt freshman had a rough opening week and gave way to Joe Kleinsmith for the final punt of the afternoon against Western Kentucky, but he'll be back on the job when Indiana faces Murray State Saturday. IU Coach Bill Lynch continued to stand behind Hagerup as his No. 1 punter Tuesday, despite a debut that included a 12-yard punt and a mishandled snap where he was unable to get a punt off. In all fairness to Hagerup, this was his first career game and he kicked well enough during three weeks of camp to win the job – it would be unreasonable to take the job away from him after only four trips onto the field. With that said, Hagerup clearly needs to make significant improvement this weekend against Murray State. The Hoosiers were able to overcome the miscues in the punting game against Western Kentucky, and they'd likely be able to do the same again this weekend against Murray State. But the competition gets much more difficult Sept. 20 when Ball State comes to town, followed by the start of Big Ten action the following weekend. There's likely nothing that Lynch and the IU staff would like to see more Saturday than a good evening for Hagerup.

IU RBs Marcus Thigpen, Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray vs. each other – When the Hoosiers head onto the field for the opening offensive series, expect to see senior Marcus Thigpen as the team's starter. But as the course of the game goes along, fans should also expect to see Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray as well. While Indiana is expected to stick with some sort of a running back rotation throughout the course of the season, it's unlikely that the running backs will share the carries as equally as they did in week one when Payton had nine carries while Thigpen and McCray had eight apiece. With that in mind, one or more likely two of these tailbacks should eventually emerge as the player(s) who will get the lion's share of the work. After the first week, it's hard to argue with the suggestion that Payton was the most effective of the three. He totaled 57 yards on nine carries, including a 34-yard run where he broke a couple of tackles before breaking free. Thigpen, meanwhile, was limited to 18 yards on eight carries and didn't factor into the passing game despite being lined up at a slot receiver position on a couple of occasions when IU went with five wideouts. Last year's running back situation often sorted itself out due to injuries, but everyone is back this fall and looking for playing time. Each player's success during the non-conference portion of the schedule figures to go a long way towards determining who will be playing the most once Big Ten play opens Sept. 27.

IU DTs Greg Brown and Deonte Mack vs. the interior of the Murray State OL – It appears that Murray State quarterback Jeff Ehrhardt will miss the Indiana contest, meaning second-stringer Nico Yantko will be under center Saturday Yantko came on in relief of Ehrhardt last week and completed 10-of-15 passes 156 yards and two touchdowns, but he should find things more difficult against IU, particularly if Brown and Mack can get a push and get into the face of Yantko. At only 5'8", Yantko will have issues being able to see what's materializing downfield if Brown and Mack can collapse the pocket. Both will have a decided advantage as far as athleticism against the Murray State offensive line, and they should make things difficult on Yantko.

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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