IOWA: Three Days and Counting

Indiana (2-3/0-2) and Iowa (3-3/0-2) both have designs on turning their seasons around with a win Saturday at Memorial Stadium. What will be the biggest factors in one of these teams coming away with a win? continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's match-up with "Three Key Match-Ups" in this contest…

IU WRs Andrew Means, Ray Fisher, Terrance Turner and DeMarlo Belcher vs. Iowa Zone Coverage – Anyone will tell you there are yards to be made against the Iowa defense. Hawkeye defensive coordinator Norm Parker's philosophy has long been to shut down opposing running games and then play zone coverage against the pass. They'll do whatever is necessary to avoid giving up the big play, and when the ball is caught underneath they'll try to close fast and deliver a big hit to try to either break up the play or avoid any yards after the catch. It's an approach that has continued to serve Iowa well this year, as it yields only 98 rushing yards/game and 11.2 points. The challenge for IU's wide receivers will be to run precise routes to find the holes in the Hawkeye zone in front of the safeties and then make some plays after the catch. While IU quarterback Kellen Lewis has struggled in the first half of the season, he also hasn't gotten a great deal of help from IU's wideouts. Ray Fisher missed some time with an injury and has had a few too many drops, Terrance Turner has been a statistical non-factor with only 117 receiving yards in five games, and even leading receiver Andrew Means had a costly drop against Minnesota. All of IU's pass catchers need to be better this weekend if IU is going to move the ball.

IU's Front Seven vs. Iowa RB Shonn Greene – Different week, new opponent, same goal for the Indiana defense. Priority number one for the Hoosiers' defense will be to keep Hawkeye running back Shonn Greene in check. The 5-11, 235-pounder has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game this season, including more than 150 in each of Iowa's first two games. The Hoosiers can count of seeing Greene carrying the ball early and often, and it will be up to the Hoosiers' defensive front to hold its own at the line of scrimmage and for the linebackers to keep Greene well below his season average of 6.4 yards/carry. For that to happen, the Hoosiers need to tackle well. They did that two weeks ago against Michigan State running back Javon Ringer, but they had some issues with missed tackles – particularly early on – in the 16-7 loss at Minnesota. Greene won't shy away from contact and is more than capable of shedding a would-be tackler who tries to go high. Indiana's defense can't afford to give up a lot of yards after contact to Greene or it will be a long day at Memorial Stadium.

IU FS Nick Polk vs. Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi – The Hoosiers have suffered a handful of injuries in the first month of the season, including Austin Thomas, Jerimy Finch, Dennis Zeigler and Chris Phillips. But I'm not sure that any of those players are any more valuable to the Hoosiers' fortunes than Polk. The junior free safety suffered a knee injury against Ball State and missed the Michigan State game because of it, but returned last weekend against Minnesota and had eight tackles and a forced fumble. Despite missing the one game, Polk has clearly been one of the biggest play-maker on the defensive side of the ball – Indiana has forced eight turnovers this season, and Polk has had a hand in half of them with an interception (IU's only pick of the season), two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery which he returned for a touchdown. That knack for game-changing plays makes him critical Saturday as IU goes up against Stanzi. The 6-4, 215-pound sophomore has thrown four interceptions this season while splitting time for much of the year with Jake Christensen, and he's also lost three fumbles in the last two weeks. If Stanzi winds up being turnover-prone again this weekend, you can count on Polk having a hand in it one way or another.

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

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