MINNESOTA: Three Days and Counting

Indiana (2-2) goes on the road for the first time Saturday to take on Minnesota (4-1) in a huge game for both teams. What are the biggest head-to-head match-ups in this battle? HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's match-up with "Three Key Match-Ups"...

Minnesota WR Eric Decker vs. IU Secondary – The 6-2, 215-pound Decker is a move-the-chains type of receiver, and the Hoosiers need to figure out a way to keep the Big Ten's leading receiver from having a huge day on Saturday.

Decker will be going up against an IU secondary that is still dealing with a slew of injuries. Starting cornerback Chris Phillips is lost for the season, while safeties Nick Polk, Austin Thomas and Jerimy Finch are all questionable at best for this weekend's match-up. With that in mind, IU Coach Bill Lynch knows his team will have its hands full with Decker.

"He's a good receiver - he's fearless," Lynch said. "He can jump, dive, find seams, beat man coverage. You have to know where he's at."

While much of the burden for covering Decker will fall on the secondary, IU's stable of linebackers will have to be aware of his whereabouts as well. He's a physical receiver who does much of his damage over the middle, and IU's zone coverage schemes will mean that Geno Johnson, Will Patterson and even Matt Mayberry will need to play a role in keeping Decker under wraps.

IU RB Marcus Thigpen vs. Minnesota's Front Seven – Indiana's senior tailback has scored five touchdowns in the last three games, including three on plays of at least 67 yards. He's finally started to produce the sort of big plays on offense that the IU coaching staff has known he's been capable of as the team's primary ball carrier.

He should have opportunities to produce big plays again this weekend against the Gophers. Minnesota ranks ninth in the Big Ten in rushing defense (143.6 yards/game), and the Gophers gave up 279 yards on the ground in last weekend's 34-21 loss to Ohio State. The most telling stat, though, could be the fact that in the last four games, Minnesota's defense has allowed 13 different ball carriers to post runs of at least 10 yards. That means ball carriers are getting past the first line of defenders and into the secondary on a regular basis, and that's good news for Thigpen.

If Thigpen is able to do that Saturday, count on him breaking off another long touchdown run. He's proven as of late that if he can get into the secondary with a full head of steam, no opposing defensive back is going to be able to chase him down. He did it twice last weekend against Michigan State, and he'll have a chance to do it again against Minnesota.

IU QB Kellen Lewis vs. MINN QB Adam Weber – It's not so much a head-to-head duel between these two quarterbacks, but each team's success or failure Saturday could rest with their quarterback's ability to avoid costly turnovers.

A year ago Weber was among the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the country, throwing 19 interceptions and losing four fumbles. That contributed significantly to a -15 turnover margin that ranked last in the Big Ten. Weber has been much better this season with only three turnovers, although two of those came last week against Ohio State. Lewis, meanwhile, has thrown four interceptions, but he has been much better about ball security this season with only one fumble thus far.

Both teams dropped their Big Ten openers in large part due to turnovers last week, and both figure to make that a point of emphasis Saturday. Whoever wins this battle should also emerge victorious Saturday afternoon.

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

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