Who Has The Edge

Northwestern and Indiana--two teams in search of their first win in Big Ten play. Who has the edge in this matchup? PurpleWildcats.com breaks it down.

When Northwestern has the ball

When the Northwestern offense has been rolling this year it has been very difficult to stop. That was evident last Saturday as the Wildcats put up 24 first half points against a very good Penn State defense.

However, the offense has been inconsistent as well, failing to put together a full 60 minutes all year.

This week offers an opportunity for the Cats to put together a complete game against one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten.

Indiana's defense is the worst defense NU has seen since Eastern Illinois in week two, ranking No. 103 nationally in scoring defense.

Expect Northwestern to have a big day on the ground against the Hoosiers' awful run defense, and the gameplan could be even more run-heavy if quarterback Dan Persa, who is listed as questionable, can't play.

If Persa can't go, expect backups Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian to split time, with Colter in for rushing plays and Simian in during passing situations.

The offensive line must improve for the Cats after a terrible game against Penn State, because Indiana blitzes frequently.

If Persa can't go, his absence could hurt NU at first, but Colter and Siemian should eventually be able to move the ball with ease against such a hapless defense.

Edge: Northwestern

When Indiana has the ball

The Hoosier offense is still trying to find its identity, but it took a big step forward last week by starting true freshman Tre Roberson at quarterback.

While Roberson didn't come close to leading his team to a win, he was impressive in his first start, going 16-for-24 for 197 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.

He's a dual-threat quarterback and showed great awareness, rushing for 84 yards and picking up some key third downs on the ground.

Roberson's supporting cast is weak, especially if wide receiver Damarlo Belcher can't play again, but he certainly showed some life last week against Iowa.

This week Roberson gets to face a much weaker defense, one that made inconsistent Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin look like a star.

Despite a number of lineup changes, Northwestern couldn't overcome its defensive struggles. The secondary likely won't be tested as much as it has been in recent weeks, but the run defense will need to step up against Indiana.

This is a chance for the NU defense to get on the right track, but it's hard to have confidence in the unit after its performances in Big Ten games.

Edge: Indiana

Special Teams

Northwestern's special teams continue to sputter, as last week's performance was inconsistent.

Jeff Budzien put through a chip shot field goal, moving to four-for-seven on the year, but kick coverage was suspect and returner Venric Mark had a rough outing.

In the kicking game, Indiana has a clear advantage over Northwestern, as Mitch Ewald has put through eight-of-10 field goals, with a long of 49 yards.

NU must get more consistent on special teams, because if it ends up playing in a close game, special teams mishaps could cost it a victory.

Edge: Indiana

Coaching

Fitzgerald is generally considered one of the top young coaches in college football, but he and his staff have come under fire this year.

There have been communication problems in the secondary and the team is still trying to find the right combination of players. That shouldn't be happening in late October.

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has had a rough first season, as his team is already out of bowl eligibility.

The Hoosiers are still trying to find their identity on offense and trying to find anything on defense.

This is one of the few coaching matchups Northwestern will win this year.

Edge: Northwestern

Intangibles

Indiana is at home, but Memorial Stadium isn't much of a home-field advantage.

Both teams are reeling heading into this game and both are winless in conference play, so something has to give.

With the Hoosiers out of bowl eligibility and still trying to find an offensive identity, and Northwestern needing a win to keep its slim bowl hopes alive, the Wildcats will have a greater sense of urgency.

Edge: Northwestern

Prediction

Tre Roberson will perform well for Indiana and prove that he can be the quarterback of the future for the Hoosiers.

However, Indiana's defense won't be able to stop the Northwestern offense, and while the Hoosiers will keep up for awhile, expect Northwestern to pull away at the end.

The Wildcats will finally get a Big Ten win and head into a big game, bowl eligibility-wise, against Nebraska.

Score: Northwestern 42, Indiana 31


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