W. MICHIGAN: Three Days and Counting

Bloomington - What are the keys to success (or failure) in Saturday's Noon match-up with Western Michigan? Hoosier Nation looks at three key head-to-head match-ups against the Broncos...

WMU RB Brandon West vs. IU Front SevenTim Hiller is the headliner for the Broncos' offense, but West's contributions are equally important. In 2008, West averaged 103.4 rushing yards/game in the eight wins that he played in (WMU won nine games, but West missed one game). But in the team's four losses, he averaged 49.8 yards per outing. That trend continued last week, as Michigan limited West to 41 yards in its 31-7 win in Ann Arbor. Hiller's at his best when he's utilizing the play-action pass to hurt teams downfield, and to be able to do that, he needs West and the offensive line to establish an ability to run the ball early on. Hiller is good enough to give IU's defense problems even if it know he's going to throw the ball on nearly every down, but if West provides the Broncos attack with balance it could be a long afternoon for the Hoosier defense. IU's young defensive tackles will need to occupy blockers and avoid being blown off the line of scrimmage, and linebackers Matt Mayberry, Will Patterson and Tyler Replogle must be sound in their tackling.

IU DEs Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton vs. WMU OTs Anthony Parker and Phillip Swanson – when the clock hits zero at Memorial Stadium Saturday, it's a safe bet that WMU quarterback Tim Hiller will have put up 250-plus passing yards against the IU defense. He's too good and too accurate for IU's defensive coaches to realistically expect to shut him down this weekend. With that said, Indiana needs to put pressure on Hiller to keep his completion percentage down, put WMU in some 3rd and long situations, and possibly create some turnovers. That's what Indiana did two years ago when it forced five WMU turnovers (including two interceptions and two QB fumbles on sacks) in its 37-27 win. That effort included a 44-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Middleton after Hiller was sacked by Greg Brown. Indiana will create some pressure with some linebacker blitzes, but the more success Kirlew and Middleton have at getting after Hiller, the better IU's chances Saturday. They'll be going against a pair of Bronco tackles that were starters a season ago and measure 6-4, 318, and 6-5, 336, respectively. Tight end Matt Stevens will be there to help in pass protection as well, but at least one of IU's defensive ends figures to be one-on-one in most passing situations.

IU C Will Matte, OGs Pete Saxon and Marc Damisch vs. WMU DTs Cody Cielenski and Drew Nowak – There wasn't much that went right with IU's running attack against Eastern Kentucky, but the Hoosiers were particularly anemic when trying to run between the tackles. While IU's running backs might have missed some holes that could have produced some bigger gains to the outside, there was generally more room to work on the perimeter. But the inside running game was generally greeted by an EKU defender either at the line of scrimmage if not behind it. This week, it's going to be up to Matte, Saxon and Damisch (assuming Justin Pagan is unable to go) to create some running lanes up the middle. In defense of Matte and Damisch, last week marked their first college games as redshirt freshmen. But they'll need to get up to speed in a hurry if the Hoosiers expect to have any sort of balance on offense.

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

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