Five words summed up Bill Lynch's feelings about his football team as it closed four weeks of preseason preparation for tonight's season opener against Eastern Kentucky.
"I like what I see," Lynch has said on multiple occasions.
Tonight at 8 p.m., Hoosier fans will get a chance to see if they concur. A modest crowd is expected as the IU program plays its first game in the newly renovated Memorial Stadium, complete with a new bag of marketing tricks to try to enhance the experience for football loyalists.
While the "Red Light Special," "Kicks for Keeps" and Knothole Park all get added to the IU vernacular tonight, what fans are most interested in is finding out what sort of differences they'll see on the field this fall. Indiana is looking to bounce back from a disheartening 3-9 mark in 2008, a season that saw the Hoosiers fall back to the Big Ten basement after the '07 Insight Bowl berth.
They'll try to get things off on the right foot against an Eastern Kentucky team that is very good by FCS (formerly I-AA) standards. The Colonels are ranked No. 24 nationally in the preseason, and are coming off an 8-4 mark in 2008 – their 31st consecutive winning season dating back to 1979.
"It really is what I think is one of the good football programs in America," Lynch said. "They've got some outstanding players and a very good scheme."
That may be the case, but for all of the success Eastern Kentucky has had against fellow FCS competition, it is 4-13 all-time against FBS (D-I) programs and it hasn't beaten an FBS team in 24 years. So anything short of a landslide victory tonight would be a disappointment.
That landslide will likely come, but I'll be most interested in seeing how it comes about. The Hoosiers will be putting their new "Pistol" offense into action for the first time, and there should be a HEAVY emphasis on running the ball.
Look for that to happen unless Eastern Kentucky shows it can slow the IU ground game down. After working out of the spread for the last four years, the Hoosiers want to establish an identity and as well as a mentality of a run-oriented football team. They'll want Eastern Kentucky to know Demetrius McCray or Darius Willis are coming, and they'll want to show the Colonels that they're unable to stop them.
I'm expecting at least two-thirds of the offensive calls to be run plays, and for the Hoosiers to amass 250 yards or more on the ground. There might not be a single ball carrier that goes over 100 yards, but McCray, Willis, Trea Burgess and Bryan Payton could all be in for at least 8-10 carries and 50-plus yards.
There will come a time when IU has to lean on Ben Chappell, Damarlo Belcher, Tandon Doss and the rest of the aerial attack, but that time won't be tonight.
Hoosier Nation Prediction: Indiana 34, Eastern Kentucky 13
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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