CENTRAL MICHIGAN: Three Days and Counting

Justin Pagan, Damarlo Belcher and Tandon Doss are three IU freshmen who figure to play a very big role in this weekend's match-up with the MAC front-runner. HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's match-up with "Three Key Match-Ups"…

CMU DE Frank Zombo vs. IU LT Justin Pagan – As of Tuesday's press conference, IU Coach Bill Lynch wasn't ready to decide who would be starting in place of the injured Rodger Saffold this weekend at left tackle. But the odds-on favorite to be the choice is true freshman Justin Pagan. Pagan has only been playing for the last four weeks, but he's impressed the staff to the point that he's the player they probably feel most comfortable with as Saffold's replacement. He'll have his hands full with Zombo, a 6-4, 260-pound junior who ranks in the nation's top 10 in both sacks (7) and tackles for loss (13). The 6-5, 308-pound Pagan will have some 50 pounds on Zombo, but he'll have to utilize his footwork as well while protecting the Hoosier quarterback's backside. It's unclear whether Pagan will be blocking for Kellen Lewis or Ben Chappell, but both can't afford to take a whole lot of hits Saturday since they're still slowed by injuries. Lewis is still slightly hobbled by a high ankle sprain that has limited his mobility to a degree, while Chappell suffered a rib injury against Northwestern and doesn't figure to 100 percent.

IU P Chris Hagerup/PK Austin Starr vs. CMU PR Antonio Brown - Brown averaged nearly 6 ½ receptions per game, but he might be even more dangerous as a return man. The reigning MAC Freshman of the Year is averaging 22.0 yards/return on kickoffs and 24.4 yards/return on punts, and averages nearly 4 ½ touches per game in the return game. It will be up to Hagerup and Starr to keep him from breaking off a big return on special teams. Hagerup has been a pleasant surprise this season, averaging 43.7 yards per punt. The most important thing for Hagerup on Saturday will his hang time so he forces Brown into fair catches, or allows his coverage team to get downfield and limit him to a minimal game. With Starr, the hope is he can get back to getting the ball into the end zone and forcing teams to start at the 20. After forcing touchbacks on 10-of-19 kickoffs in the season's first three games, Starr has forced touchbacks on only three of 18 kickoffs since Big Ten play opened. A big reason for that has been a hip flexor injury, which has also played a role in Starr's recent struggles on field goals (he's only 3-of-7 in Big Ten games).

IU WRs Damarlo Belcher and Tandon Doss vs. CMU CBs Tommy Mama and Josh Gordy – It's possible – if not probable – that Terrance Turner and Andrew Means will start Saturday. But Belcher and Doss will undoubtedly see plenty of action as well and should be primary targets for Kellen Lewis and/or Ben Chappell. Belcher caught six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in last week's win against Northwestern, and could have had nearly double that yardage if it wasn't for a couple of drops. At 6'6", Belcher will have a decided size advantage over any cornerback that he lines up against. Doss, meanwhile, has a size advantage as well at 6'3", and his eight-catch, 107-yard effort against Northwestern represented single-game highs for any IU wideout this season in both categories. They'll be going up against a Chippewa secondary that gives up 279.5 yards/game through the air, so the opportunities should be there for another big game for both.

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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