The 2-1 record seems insignificant at first glance, though second-year head coach Kevin Wilson managed just one win all of last season.
Both teams open Big Ten play on Saturday, but this still has the makings of a trap game. Wilson is searching for a signature win, and with a tricky two-quarterback system, the Hoosiers could cause problems for the NU defense.
The Indiana football program has rarely found success in recent years. After the death of Terry Hoeppner – a head coach who was revered in Bloomington – in 2007, the team picked up his mantra "Play 13."
Bill Lynch took over from Hoeppner, and in his first year led the Hoosiers to a seven win-season and a rare bowl appearance. His success, however, was short-lived, as he won only 12 games in the next three seasons.
In came Wilson, who served as offensive coordinator at NU from 1999-2001. He faced a difficult task in rebuilding a dismal program, and may need several years to find the talent required to once again "Play 13."
Indiana on Offense
Dual-threat quarterback Tre Roberson broke his left leg against Massachusetts, and will miss the rest of the season. Roberson was originally named the third-stringer when he arrived on campus. After solid play in relief, he earned the starting job late last season, making him the first true freshman starting quarterback in program history.
Backup Cameron Coffman arrived in Bloomington from Arizona Western Community College this season. Thrust into the starter's role – technically – against Ball State, Coffman excelled. The sophomore completed 24 of 35 passes for 251 yards in a 41-39 loss. The offense, of course, can hardly be blamed.
Nate Sudfeld also impressed in his relief appearance. The true freshman marked a recruiting victory for the Hoosiers and proved his worth on the field. Sudfeld threw for 172 yards against Ball State in only 20 attempts, a very efficient performance.
Both quarterbacks are expected to see time against Northwestern, with Coffman listed as the starter.
Indiana received solid production from running back Stephen Houston last season, including an 151-yard outing against Northwestern. Although he is inconsistent, the junior could challenge the NU front. Last week, Houston had the fourth 100-yard game of his career, and only needed 12 carries to do so.
Sophomore wideout Cody Latimer emerged early this season, and leads the team with 223 receiving yards. Still, it seems unlikely that this corps will offer many big play threats against the NU secondary.
Indiana on Defense
What defense? Ball State trampled Indiana in both departments. Quarterback Keith Wenning tossed three touchdowns and a balanced ground attack created nightmares for the Hoosiers.
Early on, one of the unit's major problems has been its struggle to cause turnovers. With just one interception and one fumble recovery in three games, the Hoosiers defense has not shown big play capability.
Indiana did not play this past weekend, and perhaps the extra preparation allowed the Hoosiers to shore up their pass coverage. It should be interesting to see how they fare against a mobile quarterback in Colter.
Northwestern is expected to roll Indiana on Saturday afternoon based on sheer talent. The Wildcats have maintained their focus early in their season, and their physical brand of football might overwhelm the Hoosiers.
A good start might prove crucial, as Indiana plans to find early confidence in its search for Kevin Wilson's first conference victory.
Despite strong early season statistics, the Hoosiers offense can be classified as mediocre. After minor lapses on defense in the past three weeks, the rapidly improving Cats unit will look to put together a complete game.