The Indiana Hoosiers continue their season in the comfortable confines of Memorial Stadium as they welcome in the Missouri Tigers. The Hoosiers (2-1) are fresh off a drubbing of Bowling Green, while the Tigers (2-0) had the past week off.
For IU, this is about as close to a must win as you can have in first third of a season. A 3-1 record heading into conference play would be huge. If they lose, the Hoosiers would have to post a 4-4 record in the Big Ten to become bowl eligible which is no easy task.
Missouri is a member of the feared SEC. However, the Tigers have only been in the SEC for one season and only won two conference games last season. 2012 marked the first season that the Tigers didn’t make a bowl game in eight years. Missouri’s current record comes by way of big wins against Murray State and Toledo, not exactly fear inspiring opponents.
The Tigers are very similar to the Hoosiers. Both have quick strike offenses that can score a ton of points, and defenses that would struggle against a high school team.
Its a big game for the Hoosiers, who own a 6-2-2 record against the Tigers. Any opponent from the SEC presents an interesting challenge, and we’ll learn a lot about IU win or lose.
Here’s what to watch for:
- The Shootout. We all know that IU is inadequate on defense and struggles to stop, well, anything very well. Missouri is very similar in that regard. Against Toledo, the Tigers gave up 23 points and were outgained on offense, but three Toledo turnovers saved the game. Both teams can score at will, with IU averaging 50 points per game and Missouri at 48. The punters might want to take a break Saturday night.
- The Spread. Missouri runs a spread offense that can really put a defense on its heels. Quarterback James Franklin leads the attack and has 530 passing yards and four touchdowns through two games. He also isn’t afraid to tuck the ball and run when the situation demands it. The Tigers also have very solid starting receivers in Dorial Green-Beckham and L’Damian Washington. Both have over 100 yards receiving and have each found the end zone. IU has to find a way to generate pressure on Franklin to slow down the Tigers. IU really only has one corner who can effectively play man-to-man coverage (Tim Bennett) and blitzing will likely cost the Hoosiers dearly. The front four have to have a big day if IU is going to get a few stops.
- Turnovers. As is often the case, whoever wins the turnover battle will likely win the game. Missouri has forced three turnovers in each game, and it has led to big wins for the Tigers. Their defense might not lock down opponents, but they are opportunistic. Nate Sudfeld has to be careful with the ball as IU can’t afford to give the Tigers a short field. For the Hoosiers, they will have to find the end zone after takeaways. Missouri has only given up the ball twice this season.
- Nate Sudfeld. Sudfeld is quickly becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He has 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions to go along with 917 passing yards. He’s also completing 70-percent of his passes. While coach Kevin Wilson keeps insisting that IU doesn’t have a clear cut starter, its obviously Sudfeld. His steady improvement and maturation have been very impressive. A big game from him and he has to be included in the conversation about the best QBs in the country.
- Ground and Pound. Both teams have capable running backs and a solid ground game. Missouri can rotate three backs (Henry Josey, Russell Hansbrough, and Marcus Murphy) who have over 100 yards rushing and have each found the end zone multiple times. IU’s Tevin Coleman has turned into a monster. Coleman has 332 rushing yards and five touchdowns in three games. Most impressive though is that he is averaging 8.1 yards per carry. He isn’t a boom-bust back either, and consistently finds ways to get yards with each carry. Another big game from Coleman and the Hoosiers will be looking at one more in the win column.
- Hoosier Defense. Last week, IU put in one of its best defensive performances in, well, at least the past 10 years. Bowling Green has a prolific spread offense of its own and IU’ defense held them to just three points. The Hoosiers were great on third and fourth down and managed to force two turnovers. If that type of inspired performance carries over to tomorrow night, IU will win this game. Indiana needs to force a couple three-and-outs and get a turnover if it is going to have a shot at victory.
There are a lot of “ifs” with this game, for both teams. A big night game like this should draw a fairly large home crowd. This game will likely come down to who has the ball last.
I like the Hoosiers to win a close one off the foot of Mitch Ewald, 45-42.
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