CENTRAL MICHIGAN: One Day and Counting

Indiana not only wants to keep its postseason hopes alive Saturday, but it also wants to avoid going 0-for-2 this season against Mid-America Conference teams. Can Indiana get it done? HoosierNation.com concludes its day-by-day preview of this weekend's match-up with our prediction for the game's outcome…

Bloomington - Indiana's Saturday match-up with Central Michigan might be meaningless in the Big Ten standings, but there's no downplaying the significance of this contest for Coach Bill Lynch's squad.

First off, the Hoosiers' flickering postseason hopes rely on a win over the Chippewas. At 3-5 overall the odds of a second straight bowl trip are remote, but a second straight win would move Indiana within two victories of bowl eligibility. While six wins doesn't guarantee a bowl invite, it's undoubtedly the carrot that the IU staff is dangling in front of the team during the regular season's final month.

Secondly, the Hoosiers want to avoid a second straight loss to a Mid-America Conference foe. Indiana was whipped by Ball State 42-20 last month, one of eight straight wins for the Cardinals. Now, it faces a Chippewa squad that is 5-0 in league play this season and has won two consecutive MAC championships. While both are very good teams, there remains a stigma about a Big Ten team losing to a team from the MAC once - let alone twice – in the same season.

Considering those facts, a very solid case can be made for this game actually meaning more to Indiana than Central Michigan. The Chippewas primary focus is on upcoming contests against Northern Illinois (5-3/4-1) and Ball State (8-0/4-0), games that will determine the MAC's Western Division title. While a win over Indiana would serve as an ego boost, it would do very little to impact their postseason fate.

Central Michigan also lacks the same level of motivation that Ball State did last month. For the Cardinals, the victory over IU was its first-ever against a BCS team and a coveted win over an in-state foe. It was a victory that put the Cardinals in the national spotlight and soon afterwards into the nation's top 25. While Central Michigan hasn't beaten a Big Ten team since 1992, there is the same sort of novelty or rivalry at play.

Of course, a case can be made that motivation won't necessarily be enough for an Indiana team that has been hit hard by injuries and is unsettled at quarterback. For the second straight week, the Hoosiers' offensive line is having to cope with the absence of two players due to injury. Last week it was guards Andrew McDonald and Cody Faulkner, both of whom had concussions. Those two are back, but now it's left tackles Rodger Saffold (knee) and James Brewer (ankle) who will unavailable.

Despite those absences, I expect Indiana to back up its best game of the season with an even better performance against Central Michigan. No matter if it's Kellen Lewis or Ben Chappell at quarterback, IU's signal caller should have a field day with a Chippewa secondary that is giving up nearly 280 passing yards/game. Look for freshman wideouts Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher to star once again, and for Indiana to set themselves up for a very big home finale next week against Wisconsin.

HoosierNation.com's Prediction: Indiana 34, Central Michigan 20

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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