MINNESOTA: Two Days and Counting

The Hoosiers go on the road for the first time this season Saturday to face a much-improved Minnesota team. HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's match-up with "Two Big Concerns" in this weekend's Big Ten battle...

What happens in the first quarter – After back-to-back home losses to Ball State and Michigan State, Indiana faces Minnesota in what is a must win for the Hoosiers if they have visions of making another bowl trip this season. While the Gophers are 4-1, they were 1-11 a year ago and this is clearly the most winnable road game on the Big Ten schedule.

If Indiana is going to get its first win in Minneapolis since 1993, it needs to get off to a good start. The Hoosiers have trailed at the end of the first quarter in each of the past two weeks (14-6 to Ball State, 13-7 vs. Michigan State) and they were never able to regain the lead in either contest.

A good start would also be big considering what's happened in IU's last two trips to the Metrodome. Two years ago, the Gophers raced to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter on their way to a 63-26 victory. In 2003, Minnesota had opened a 20-0 lead two minutes into the second quarter and cruised to a 55-7 win over the Hoosiers.

Getting out in front early would also enable players such as Greg Middleton, Jammie Kirlew and Ryan Marando to get back to applying pressure on the quarterback. Indiana has only eight sacks through the first four games this season, compared to 18 a year ago. Lynch said the biggest reason for that is the fact opposing teams haven't been forced to throw the ball.

"If you go back when we had all the big sack numbers last year, we had a lot of games in the first half the season where we got off to pretty good leads and they were forced to throw the ball and throw it a lot," Lynch said. "If you can get a lead and force someone to throw it and throw it a lot, that lends itself to putting pressure."

Is Indiana ready to go on the road…for the first time? – When the Hoosiers announced a schedule that included a record eight home games in 2008, it was a good news/bad news situation.

The good news was that IU would play in front of the home fans eight times, where they've played well in recent years. The bad news was that there would be a degree of uncertainty about just how ready IU would be to play on the road in the Big Ten once they did have to venture away from Memorial Stadium.

Indiana is the only Big Ten team that didn't play a road game during the non-conference season, and now they face a near must-win game against Minnesota in their first road game of the season. That's a tall task, considering the Hoosiers are only 2-23 in Big Ten road games dating back to 2001. But instead of dwelling on those historical struggles, Lynch is thinking about the fact his team played well in its Big Ten road opener last season when it beat Iowa, 38-20.

"The first time (you go on the road) you're going to learn a little bit," Lynch said. "Last year, our first Big Ten road trip was Iowa, and that was coming off a loss at home. And we responded pretty well with that. Instead of having the negative thoughts in your mind about what's happened in the past, that's a positive."

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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