Breaking it down: Southern Illinois vs. Indiana
Who: Southern Illinois vs. Indiana
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Indiana
TV: ESPN News
Matchup to Watch: Matt Ionnatti vs. IU secondary
The Southern Illinois quarterback is talented enough to make plays against a young, unproven Indiana secondary. The Hoosiers struggled last year — and seemingly every year — against the pass. For an experienced FCS quarterback, Memorial Stadium won’t exactly present a typical Power Five road atmosphere, especially if IU can’t prevent him from picking apart the defensive backfield. Chase Dutra will have to assert himself and prevent some of the big plays that have evened the playing field against lesser opponents in years past.
Thing I’m excited to see: Jordan Howard’s debut
There are questions surrounding the UAB transfer heading into 2015. He racked up 1,587 yards in 2014, but how will he fare against bigger and better tacklers? Will he get over 20 touches per contest or will Devine Redding earn a significant share of the workload? How will Indiana use a true power back, which they haven’t featured in the Kevin Wilson era? We won’t see these questions fully answered yet, but the 230-pound Howard shouldn’t have much of a problem bouncing off Saluki defenders. He might even remind them of former SIU great Brandon Jacobs. The Hoosiers would gladly take that.
Number to Remember: 329
That’s how many days it will have been since Sudfeld took a live, in-game hit. No practice or spring game can truly simulate that. His surgically repaired non-throwing shoulder will be exposed plenty. No, Southern Illinois won’t have a Big Ten pass rush, but it could take some getting used to for Sudfeld to look like his old self. Lucky for him, he’ll operate behind one of the better pass blocking units in the country. Jason Spriggs is as good a candidate as any to protect Sudfeld’s blind side and make sure he isn’t taking any unnecessary shots.
Prediction: Indiana 35, Southern Illinois 17
If not for all of the Hoosiers’ new faces at the skill positions, I’d say this one would be even more lopsided. Still, Sudfeld and Howard will find their groove in this one. I don’t see any team being completely shut down by IU’s secondary. Not yet, at least. But against a .500 FCS squad, this as much of a gimme as any the Hoosiers will have in 2015.