IU C Will Matte, G Aaron Price and G Marc Damisch vs. TU DTs Marcus Valentine and Yaki Ibia – There isn't a lot of good about a defense that surrendered 36.5 points/game a season ago, but one of the team's supposed strengths is its play at defensive tackle. Senior Yaki Ibia (52 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks) and junior Marcus Valentine (35 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks) both return after starting a season ago, and this duo will test some unproven players on the Hoosier offensive line. While Matte has plenty of experience at center, Price will be seeing his first collegiate action and Damisch will be making his second career start. Despite their relative inexperience, they haven't landed their starting spots by default – they've played well enough during fall camp to keep two-year starter Justin Pagan and fifth-year senior Cody Faulkner from the top spot on the depth chart. Keep an eye on whether or not IU's trio of interior linemen are doing a good enough job up front to allow Darius Willis and Nick Turner to return between the tackles. Both of IU's tailbacks should find room to run on the outside, but the Hoosiers have to show they're capable of getting the tough yards up the middle, and that means going right at Ibia and Valentine.
IU DE Fred Jones vs. TU Offensive Line – The 6'4", 272-pound Jones has always looked the part, and now he'll get his chance to play the part as a key to the Hoosiers' success on the defensive line. The junior from Tyrone, Ga., is a mountainous man who was expected to make a contribution to the Hoosier defense earlier than his fourth year on campus. He was supposed to be more of a factor a season ago, but a foot injury kept him sidelined for the season's first nine games and he recorded three tackles over the final three contests. But with Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton both gone, Jones steps in as an every-down defensive end who will need to show he can get some pressure on the quarterback while also being a factor in defending the run. He'll go up against a Towson offensive line that was moderately respectable at protecting the quarterback a season ago, yielding 24 sacks in 11 games.
IU CB Matt Ernest vs. TU WR Hakeem Moore and/or WR Tom Ryan – To date, it's been a successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback for Ernest, who caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown a year ago. Since moving to cornerback last spring, he's impressed the IU coaching staff enough that he's expected to start Thursday night. Ernest combines excellent speed with great size (6'2", 189 pounds) for the position, and he's continued to impress throughout fall camp. But when he takes the field Thursday, he'll still be a player to watch to see just how ready he is to handle his new role. When he's matched up with Moore, he'll be trying to take away Towson's best deep ball threat. When he finds himself opposite the 6'3", 205-pound Ryan, he'll be taking on a big, physical possession receiver who earned four starts a season ago as a true freshman.
On Sunday – 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
TOWSON PREVIEW: Three Key Match-Ups
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