Does Indiana have any gas left in the tank? - It's been a very disappointing stretch for the IU football team, but IU Coach Bill Lynch has been encouraged by what he's seen in the days leading up to this weekend's match-up with Northwestern.
"I gauge it off how they are in meetings and how they are at practice, and I think they've been really good in meetings and practice and spirited and getting after it," Lynch said. "That's the best judge I have. So I like the way they are in terms of their work and attitude and looking forward to the game Saturday."
While Lynch and his players are all saying the right things these days, but one still has to wonder how much fight this team has left after its recent struggles. The performances in first three losses, to some extent, are understandable. Ball State remains undefeated and appears to have a legitimate chance to go undefeated. Minnesota is vastly improved from a year ago, and the IU defense played well against the Gophers. The Michigan State loss, meanwhile, might have actually been this team's best performance of the year in many regards.
But in the last two setbacks to Iowa and Illinois, the performance has been abysmal. In the last six quarters, IU has been outscored 83-13. The IU defense has yielded 853 yards in those 90 minutes of action, and they've given up three times as many touchdowns (12) as punts that they've forced (4). The IU offense, meanwhile, has countered with only one touchdown and have converted only 5-of-23 third down attempts.
"You're disappointed when you go through a stretch like this, but it's how you bounce back," Lynch said. "I talked to them today about being resilient. When you have a little adversity you have to bounce back. It's not what happens it's what you do about it."
We'll find out if Indiana can turn any of those words into deeds on Saturday.
Can Indiana figure out a way to contain Tyrell Sutton? – Indiana has gone up against some very good tailbacks this year in Ball State's MiQuale Lewis, Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Iowa's Shonn Greene, among others. But Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton could prove to be as tough an assignment as any of them.
Sutton is among the Big Ten leaders in rushing with 99.9 yards/game, which includes three games of more than 100 yards. But he's also a big part of the Wildcats' passing game as well. His 28 receptions this season is more than any player on IU's roster, while his 262 yards is more than everyone except Andrew Means – who most likely won't play this weekend. Sutton's versatility was a big reason why the Wildcats topped IU a year ago in Evanston, as he ran for 141 yards and added another 72 yards receiving in the 31-28 win.
"He's such a complete back," Lynch said. "He's a good pass blocker, he's a very good runner, and he'll really hurt you in the passing game. They'll play a lot of empty formations, and he becomes a feature receiver because he creates real match-up problems with linebackers. He creates a lot of problems because you have to know where he is on the field. He runs, he blocks, and he's a good receiver."
There are plenty of things Indiana needs to do to have a chance on Saturday, but one of the most important is to keep Sutton from having about monstrous afternoon. If he's approaching 150 or 200 yards of all-purpose yards again, it could be another long day for IU.
What's coming up:
On Monday - Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
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