Eastern Kentucky: Two Days and Counting

Bloomington - Continuing our day-by-day preview of the Hoosiers' season opener against Eastern Kentucky, Hoosier Nation looks at two big concerns for the Hoosiers Thursday night...

What will the turnout be for the Hoosiers' season opener? – There's plenty of excitement around IU football these days thanks to the start of a new season and the opening of the newly-renovated Memorial Stadium. IU athletics administrators will also be unveiling a slew of new gameday ideas tomorrow night, from Knothole Park to "Kicks for Keeps" to pre-game fireworks when the team is introduced.

Despite everything that's new, there's still some serious concern about an old problem for IU football – attendance.

Memorial Stadium's capacity stands at 52,692, but Thursday night's attendance won't come anywhere near that number. IU officials haven't offered up any estimates for the turnout, but in August IU Athletics Director Fred Glass told the Bloomington Herald Times that student ticket sales were off 5 percent from a year ago and adult sales were down 10 percent. Indiana's 2008 season opener against Western Kentucky attracted only 30,067, so it's a safe bet ticket sales will wind up being under 30,000. Add in the fact that fans from places like Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne will be hard-pressed to make the trip for an 8 p.m., mid-week start, and there's some justifiable concern about just how many empty seats there will be.

However it turns out, it hasn't been due to a lack of effort on administrators part. Short of giving tickets away officials have done about all they can do, offering up $5 tickets for students and launching a media campaign that has put recent years' efforts to shame. But most fans continue to take a wait-and-see approach with this year's team, no matter how many new bells and whistles.

Will injuries keep the Hoosier offensive line from gelling? - Some positions on the field are more important than others as far as keeping people healthy, and the offensive line is one of the areas where IU can't afford many injuries. The Hoosiers were decimated by injuries up front a season ago, and that went a long way toward derailing the team's fortunes.

As Indiana tries to turn the page on the 2008 campaign, it heads into the '09 season with one of its starters up front on the sidelines for the opener – sophomore Justin Pagan. The 6'5", 311-pounder hurt an ankle last week in practice and has been ruled out for the opener. He'll be joined on the sidelines by fellow linemen Andrew McDonald and Cody Faulkner, an experienced duo that would have been in the two-deep if it weren't for ankle and foot injuries, respectively.

While there is some merit to the idea that this gives players like Marc Damisch an opportunity to play and presumably gives IU some more quality depth, Indiana has to keep its offensive line in tact if it hopes to have a successful season. The unit needs to be able to practice together and play together so that they can get comfortable with each other and as a unit. Pagan's absence hurts in that regard.

Coming Up
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Monday – Four Names to Know
On Tuesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Wednesday – Two Big Concerns
On Thursday – One Bold Prediction

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