Matt Weaver/

5 Questions: Nebraska vs Indiana

How about a scouting report from Indiana? We talk with football staff writer Matt Weaver to get his thoughts on the Hoosiers.

1.) After five games this season, is Indiana over or under achieving from where you thought they would be. Explain. 

“I would say as far as the record they are about where I thought they might be. I though best case scenario they would be 4-1 and worst case scenario they would be 2-3 so 3-2 is about where I figured they would be after five games.

Offensively they are probably under achieving based on their past history on offense, but they have also had to deal with a number of injuries to key players. They are still a pretty effective offense as they lead the Big Ten in passing offense and are fourth in the league in total offense. Their biggest issues are finishing drives and getting touchdowns instead of field goals. Too many times they have had to settle for three points instead of getting seven. In games that are close those missed opportunities could be very costly. 

“Defensively there is no doubt they are over achieving. Last year Indiana was basically the worst defense statistically in the Big Ten so they only had one way to go and that was up, but I think most people are surprised at just how much better they are playing in the first season under new coordinator Tom Allen. The defense basically won the game for them against Michigan State, and they did a pretty solid job against a very good offensive team in Ohio State. The impact that Coach Allen has made is pretty remarkable.”

2.) Give a quick scouting report for quarterback Rich Lagow. 

“Lagow is pretty similar to the quarterback he replaced at IU in Nate Sudfeld. Like Sudfeld, he is a tall quarterback with a big arm that can make every throw you need a quarterback to make. He is a bit more athletic than Nate, but running with the ball isn’t something he is going to do a lot of. For the most part he has done a very good job of taking care of the ball. He did have the five interception game against Wake Forest, but in fairness to him only a couple of those were probably on him. If Lagow has time to scan the field, he will more than likely find an open receiver.”

3.) After playing two top 25 opponents, including an emotional one against Michigan State, is this a tired football team?  

“I don’t think they are tired at all. In fact, I think getting the win over MSU and going toe-to-toe with OSU has given them more energy, not less. I think if they had lost both and been beaten handily in both it might have taken a bigger toll on the players, but both of these games showed what the players already believed, and that is they can play with anyone in the Big Ten. They do have some injuries to some key players, but most of the injuries happened either before the season or in the first game or two so they have been playing without those guys for a while.

The biggest injury they are hoping to get some good news on is All-American offensive lineman Dan Feeney. He has been out three weeks now with a concussion and the hope is that he can play this week. And on defense they got back a key defensive lineman in Robert McCray against OSU after he had missed the first four games with a shoulder injury. And they could be getting back another key defensive lineman this week in Jacob Robinson if he is cleared after suffering a concussion against a few weeks ago.”

4.) Who are a couple guys on defense Nebraska fans need to know? 

“On the defensive line the names to know are Ralph Green and Nate Hoff. They are the two leading tacklers among defensive linemen, and they are second (Hoff) and third (Green) in tackles for loss. Hoff is also tied for the team lead in sacks. They are big, strong defensive tackles that have played pretty well this season.

“At linebacker the names to know are Tegray Scales and Marcus Oliver. Scales is having an All-Conference type of season as he has 45 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and a couple sacks through five games. He has also picked off a pass and forced a fumble. His game is based on speed and athleticism and he has played very well this year. Oliver was the leading tackler for the Hoosiers last year, and this year he is second on the team in that category. Oliver does not do anything to wow you, but he is a very smart player that the defensive coaches have a great deal of trust in. He is basically the leader and the captain of the defense. 

“In the secondary the names to know are cornerback Rashard Fant and safety Marcelino Ball. Fant has turned into a pretty good cover corner for the IU defense. He led the Big Ten in pass break-ups last year, and he is tied for the conference lead in that category after five games this season. Ball plays the Husky position for IU, which is the fifth DB in the 4-2-5 scheme that Tom Allen has implemented. It is basically a hybrid safety/OLB and he has come in as a true freshman and played well. There have obviously been some freshman mistakes, but overall he has been a very productive player.”

5.) Your biggest keys to an Indiana win and prediction? 

“The biggest key on offense for the Hoosiers is being able to run the ball successfully. This is more of a passing offense, but it is important for IU to be able to run the ball. They struggled to do that against Ohio State and it affected their ability to move the ball consistently. In the second half against MSU they were able to run it better and that is when the offense started to really move the ball. If they can run it on Saturday against Nebraska, they will be tough to stop because it will open up the passing game.

“Defensive the key is stopping the run. Nebraska is rushing for more than 230 yards per game and IU has to slow down their running game. If the Cornhuskers are able to get six and seven yards a run it will be very difficult for IU to win the game. The other key factor is to not let Tommy Armstrong beat them with his legs. If they get pressure on him they can’t let him escape for big gains. It is bound to happen a few times, but it can’t happen time and time again.

“On special teams the Hoosiers have to be sound and not give up any big plays that give the Cornhuskers cheap points. Nebraska is good enough offensively that they don’t need any help so the IU coverage teams have to do their jobs and not have any returns that lead to easy scores for Nebraska.

“I expect IU to come out and play well and I think they get the win. I will say Indiana 31 – Nebraska 27.”

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