Indiana's going on the road – It's not Michigan or Ohio Stadium, but the Hoosiers are still headed away from Memorial Stadium this weekend when they take on Akron at 3:30 p.m. at the brand-new InfoCision Stadium. A look at recent history reveals that anytime Indiana ventures outside the Bloomington city limits, its chances of winning are remote.
The Hoosiers have lost seven straight road games dating back to 2007. Their last win was a 38-20 victory over Iowa during their Insight Bowl season and since 2002 Indiana is just 6-31 on the road. Despite that history, Indiana's players and staff know that this year's challenging schedule make it a virtual necessity to win this game if they are to have realistic bowl hopes.
In an effort to prepare for this weekend's hostile environment, IU Coach Bill Lynch has been sending the offense inside the Mellencamp Pavilion and turning up the noise for a handful of the afternoon practice sessions. "We will try to distract the offense and see if we can avoid procedure penalties," Lynch said. "That is one point of emphasis we have this week. We have to prepare for crowd noise because we will run into that the next few weeks at Akron and Michigan and try to make our guys stay locked in to avoid pre-snap penalties while there are distractions."
One piece of good news for IU, though, as it heads on the road is Akron has been anything but dominant at home in recent years. The Zips are just 4-6 at home during the last two-plus seasons, including a 1-4 mark a year ago. Three of last year's losses were by four points or less, with the lone exception being a 17-point loss to Ball State.
What can Indiana do to be more proficient in the red zone – Improve on last year's Big Ten-worst 66.7 percent success rate in the red zone has been a point of emphasis for this year's IU team, but it hasn't translated into better results during the first two games.
The Hoosiers are ninth in red zone efficiency (75 percent), which is a modest improvement over a year ago. But they've really suffered a drop-off from a year ago so far due to an inability to score touchdowns when they get inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Indiana has scored touchdowns on only two of its eight trips inside the red zone against Eastern Kentucky and Western Michigan, producing a Big Ten-worst touchdown rate of 25 percent.
"I think first of all, in the red zone, running the ball is very important," Lynch said. "The field gets so short it really takes away a part of your passing game. The back line acts as another defender and in some cases, another three defenders as you go across the field. That is why it is so important to be able to run the ball and that is an area."
A closer look at Indiana's ability – or lack thereof – to run the ball in the red zone bears that out. During the season's first two weeks Indiana has totaled just 28 rushing yards on 13 carries inside the opponents' 20-yard line. That's played a big part in forcing IU to rely on Nick Freeland to kick field goals when it's gotten in close, but Lynch is well aware of the fact that continuing that trend will eventually catch up to his team.
"That is something, when you settle for field goals, it may come back to hurt you," Lynch said.
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
AKRON: Two Days and Counting
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