IU P Chris Hagerup vs. UVA P Jimmy Howell - Virginia's proficiencies on defense and deficiencies on offense make it likely that the two teams' punters might get more touches than some of the primary offensive playmakers. With that in mind, Hagerup and Howell both have a chance to play a big factor in this game's outcome.
Coming into the season, that would have seemed to be very good news for Indiana after the season the season Hagerup put together a year ago. As a redshirt freshman Hagerup ranked third in the Big Ten and 24th nationally in punting (42.4) and Indiana ranked 29th nationally net punting (36.6). Howell, meanwhile, was just 81st nationally with a 38.9 yards/punt average in '08. But the table has turned in the early going in '09 – Howell has climbed to 43rd nationally with a 41.8 yard average, while Hagerup has slipped to 58th with a 40.6 average. Indiana has also dropped all the way to 108th nationally in net punting with just an average of 31.8 yards, and they're not "flipping" the field the way that Bill Lynch would like.
All of the responsibility can't go to Hagerup, though, considering he's had some errant snaps to deal with as well as a blown protection on the punt that he had blocked against Akron. But Lynch knows the punt game is going to be of particular importance this week, and said it's going to be a point of emphasis at practice. "We are going to work on punting this week. [Chris] Hagerup is very capable and he will improve because he has punted the ball well in practice. He just really hasn't had the same performance as he had a year ago and as he has in practice. It is not that he doesn't care or is not working at improving, he just has to get back at it in practice."
IU QB Ben Chappell vs. UVA Secondary - Virginia isn't the best team Indiana will face this season – not by a long shot – but the Cavalier secondary will be one of the best that Chappell faces this year. It's a big, physical secondary that ranks eighth nationally in pass defense (156.5 yards/game) and 19th in the country in pass efficiency defense.
In cornerbacks Chris Cook and Ras-I Dowling, Chappell and his wideouts will be going up against a couple of covermen that have the kind of size that very few college corners possess. They're also veterans who have combined for 11 career interceptions. The nickel back – Chase Minnifield – also has excellent size at 6'0" and 185 pounds and has an interception, a couple of passes broken up and 14 tackles.
Chappell will need to be sharp against the trio. The Hoosiers' junior quarterback will need to avoid any drive-killing interceptions, and he'll need to be precise on his underneath throws. Then, on the couple of occasions where he gets a chance to make big plays downfield, he'll need to be on target. They're won't be lot of opportunities to squander.
UVA QB Jameel Sewell vs. IU LBs Will Patterson, Matt Mayberry and Tyler Replogle - Sewell is a dual threat quarterback who has a 300-yard game to his credit this season (24-of-46, 312 yards vs. Southern Miss), but if he's really going to hurt the Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon it's probably going to be with his ability to run with it.
Sewell has been the team's leader in rushing attempts in three of Virginia's four games, and it's not all because he's taken off after getting some pressure. Cavalier offensive coordinator and former Bowling Green head coach Gregg Brandon has plenty of designed runs for Sewell, and he's more than capable of gashing a defense for a big play. It will be important for Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton to keep Sewell contained as much as possible, but it's going to be imperative that IU's linebackers do a good job of wrapping Sewell up when he gets past the line of scrimmage.
The group did a very nice job two weeks ago when they combined with the defensive front to pretty much shut down the run from Michigan quarterbacks Tate Forcier (10 carries, 15 yards) and Denard Robinson (11 carries, 24 yards). But they didn't have nearly as much success with Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor this past weekend. Pryor had more than 100 yards rushing, with his game total being brought down to 63 yards due to a couple of sacks. Indiana's linebackers need to replicate their effort against Forcier and make Sewell one dimensional.
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
VIRGINIA: Three Days and Counting
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