BSU PREVIEW: Three Days and Counting

Saturday night's battle in Bloomington is a huge game for both Indiana (2-0) and Ball State (3-0), and it's a game loaded with playmakers on both sides of the ball. HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of the contest with a look at three of the key match-ups that will go a long way in determining the winner...

IU DE Greg Middleton vs. BSU LT Andre Ramsey – IU will be looking for solid efforts from Chris Phillips, Chris Adkins and the rest of the secondary, but the best way for the Hoosiers to keep Cardinal quarterback Nate Davis under wraps is to apply pressure with the front four. When it comes to doing that, Middleton is the player who has a chance to have a huge impact on the game's outcome. The nation's leading sack man a season ago with 16, Middleton teams with Jammie Kirlew and Ryan Marando to give IU three bona fide pass rushers off the edge. He'll be matched up against the 6-5, 304-pound Ramsey, a senior who was in the starting lineup and lined up opposite Middleton in last year's game. At the time Ramsey was making just his fourth career start, and Middleton had a couple of sacks in IU's 38-20 win. Ramsey has gained some valuable experience since that time, starting the final five games of the '07 season and the first three in '08. He'll face a tough assignment, but so does Middleton, evidenced by the fact Ball State has yielded only two sacks this season.

IU QB Kellen Lewis vs. BSU Coach Brady Hoke – As is the case with any head coach who gameplans against IU, Hoke will have to decide on the best approach to slowing the Hoosiers' dual threat quarterback, a player who Hoke said this week has athleticism that is "second to none." Does he assign a spy to Lewis to mirror his every move on the field? Does he attempt to take away the run option for IU's junior quarterback when the Hoosiers run the option? Does he give IU's wide receivers some cushion to take away the deep routes? IU's first two foes have formulated different strategies, and both were unsuccessful. Lewis ran for 185 yards and a couple of long scores in the 31-13 win over Western Kentucky. Against Murray State, Lewis only rushed the ball once, but completed 15-of-21 passes for 170 yards in IU's 45-3 win. Whatever it is that Hoke tries to take away from Lewis, his challenge will be to recognize that and take whatever it is that the Cardinal defense is willing to give up. That's been a point of emphasis for IU Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada and Lewis, and they've been very good at exploiting whatever the opposing defense is willing to surrender.

BSU WR Dante Love vs. IU RB/KR Marcus Thigpen – These two are players who are more than capable of turning in a big play, whether it's on offense or on special teams. The 5'10", 179-pound Love is a speedster who ranks third nationally in all-purpose yardage (242.0 yards/game) and first in receiving yards (144.0/game). He has averaged 16 touches in the first three games, and Ball State will use him as not only a receiver, but also to run the ball and to return kickoffs. Thigpen, meanwhile, doesn't get as many touches (11.0/game), but turned in a couple of long touchdown runs against Murray State and has long been thought of as one of the nation's best kickoff returners. Both teams look to these fleet-footed seniors for big plays either on offense or on special teams, and if one is able to deliver Saturday it will go a long way towards helping their team come away with a win.

What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-Ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction


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