AKRON: Three Days and Counting

Bloomington - Hoosier Nation continues its day-by-day preview of Saturday's match-up with the Akron Zips. Today, we look at three of the biggest match-ups in the contest at InfoCision Stadium...

Indiana's offense vs. the officials' whistles – If the Hoosiers are to be judged on how much improvement they show on this week's "points of emphasis", then head straight to the game's boxscore Sunday morning and check out IU's penalty totals against the Zips. Indiana is bringing in game officials to work some of the team's practice sessions this week in an effort to make improvements in an area that is desperate need of some. Only six teams in the nation have been flagged more than Indiana this season, and a good portion of those miscues are inexcusable. IU Coach Bill Lynch says he can live with the "effort" penalties such the occasional pass interference call or the inadvertent facemask. But it's the pre-snap penalties that have him befuddled. Twelve of the Hoosiers' 21 penalties have been pre-snap infractions, ranging from false starts to illegal procedures to off sides. That's an area that must be shored up if the Hoosiers want to move to 3-0 against Akron.

IU QB Ben Chappell vs. AKRON Secondary – if Akron's season-opener against Penn State is any indication, the Zips might choose to force Chappell to beat them through the air. Akron was committed to not allowing Nittany Lion tailback Evan Royster (14 carries, 61 yards) to beat them, and Clark responded with a record-setting day in Penn State's 31-7 win. Clark threw for 254 yards in the first half – including three touchdowns – to help Penn State open a 31-0 lead and finished with 3543 yards on 29-of-40 passing. If Akron commits itself to slowing Demetrius McCray, then it's going to fall to Chappell to win this one through the air. He showed he's capable of that with a 27-of-36, 326-yard effort against Eastern Kentucky, but he missed some big play chances last week against Western Michigan. He overthrew Matt Ernest in the red zone where an on target throw would have been a touchdown, and he did the same on deep ball on a 3rd-and-1 to Tandon Doss that would have resulted in a score if he'd been on target. Chappell has been very accurate with his underneath route throws this season, but he's generally misfired when he's looked for a home run play. As Indiana goes on the road to face Akron, Chappell will likely get another chance or two to burn the Zips' secondary deep and he needs to start taking advantage of those chances. Doss and Damarlo Belcher will have also a huge size advantage over Zips corners Manley Waller (5'8", 160) and Miguel Graham (5'9", 170).

IU Special Teams vs. Akron Special Teams – If there's an area where IU appears to have a decided edge it's on special teams. Chris Hagerup has established himself as one of the Big Ten's best punters and the new rugby-style approach has largely eliminated much damage with opposing punt returns. Placekicker Nick Freeland has made four of his first five kicks and has been solid on kickoffs, and there's still freshman Mitch Ewald who might even prove to be better on field goals down the stretch. Akron, meanwhile, has a punter (John Stec) who averages only 37 yards/punt and a placekicker (Branko Rogovic) who has missed two of his four field goal attempts this season and missed 10 a year ago, including five from 32 yards or closer. Rogovic had a pair of field goals blocked last year, and Stec has had three punts blocked during his career. Indiana's first two games have gone down to the final seconds before the defense made a game-saving play. This weekend it could a special teams play late – or early – that proves to be the game changer.

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

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