PENN STATE: Two Days and Counting

There are a whole lot more than just two things that IU is concerned about when it comes to Saturday's match-up with No. 7 Penn State, but a couple of items do stand out as IU heads into Beaver Stadium. continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's contest with "Two Big Concerns" for the Hoosiers…

Can Indiana keep from suffering its third 35-point plus loss in the last six weeks? – As Indiana prepares to depart for its most difficult assignment of the 2008 season, it will do so with a team that has been decimated by injuries and most likely damaged psychologically by the way this season has unfolded. That's a bad combination for a match-up against a top-10 team in front of nearly 110,000 people.

Indiana entered the 2008 season with a level of confidence that it hasn't had in years, and it was a result of last season's bowl trip. Not only did the Hoosiers go 7-6, but with the exception of the 52-27 loss at Michigan State, IU was competitive even in the games it lost. In the 27-14 loss to Illinois, IU actually out-gained the Illini 397-386. Against Oklahoma State, IU piled up 513 yards of total offense in the 49-33 loss. Even in the 33-3 loss at Wisconsin, the Badgers didn't put the game away until the fourth quarter.

It's been a different story this season, as IU was dismantled by Iowa in the second half on its way to a 45-9 win, and the Hoosiers were destroyed by Illinois 55-13. This trip to Penn State has a chance to be every bit as ugly considering the strength of the opponent and the state the Hoosiers with the season winding down.

That's not good. Few expect the Hoosiers to go into Beaver Stadium and upset the Nittany Lions, but it's also not acceptable for a Big Ten team to take a beating like the Lions' season-opening foe, Coastal Carolina, did back on Aug. 30 when it was drubbed 66-10. No matter who IU puts out on the field, it needs to avoid that sort of embarrassing performance. That's unacceptable, no matter how injury-riddled the line-up is at this point in the season.

The Hoosiers' secondary is in a desperate situation - Injuries have had an impact on just about every position on the field this season for Indiana, but no position has been hit harder than the secondary.

Opening-day starters Chris Phillips, Austin Thomas and Nick Polk have all been lost for the season with ACL injuries. Phillips' replacement at corner – Richard Council – is most likely out for the year as well with an ankle/lower leg injury, and prized summer addition Jerimy Finch has been dealing with an ankle injury and has been demoted to the scout team. Senior Joe Kleinsmith will play this weekend, but he is nursing his own array of injuries and is barely healthy enough to play.

If one of the starters in the secondary goes down, Indiana will have to turn to someone who has never played a meaningful minute in the secondary in a game. Backing up starting corners Donnell Jones and Chris Adkins is Adrian Burks and walk-on Andre LaGrone, neither of whom has even recorded a tackle on special teams this season. At safety, Kleinsmith is backed up by Jarrell Drane – he has two tackles this season – and Brandon Mosley is being backed up by converted wide receiver Collin Taylor. Taylor moved to safety last Monday, and it's very possible he could see action this weekend despite having only two weeks under his belt at his new position.

The challenge is daunting enough for the IU secondary against Darryl Clark and his stable of wide receivers, but it's a downright scary thought to think about the situation if IU has another player go down with an injury in the secondary.

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 Top Stories