Breaking it down: Indiana in need of significant defensive strides vs. FIU
Who: Florida International vs. Indiana
When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Indiana
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Indiana -8
Matchup to watch: Jonnu Smith vs. T.J. Simmons
Indiana will see better offensive competition, but it might not see a better tight end all season. Smith led all tight ends in receiving yards in 2014 and is one of the top pro prospects at the position. It’ll be Simmons’ job not to let him carve out space between the hashes. The Hoosiers will still be without Tegray Scales, who is serving a two-game suspension. Smith will be a tougher individual matchup than any of the Southern Illinois options the Hoosiers couldn’t stop last week. Containing him would go a long way toward showing some defensive improvement.
Thing I’m excited to see: Good ole Ron Turner
Big Ten fans should be plenty familiar with the former Illinois coach. I’m sure the Big Ten Network will show some old pics of Turner on the Illini sideline and will sprinkle in some clips of him at his various NFL stops. Now in his third season at FIU, Turner will look to do something he’s once before — win at Indiana. It’s been 14 years since Turner led a team to victory in Bloomington, but after last week’s road upset of Central Florida, he has his group believing heading into Saturday. Next on Turner’s to-do list at FIU? Beat a Power Five foe.
Number to remember: 0
That’s how many points the Panthers surrendered in the second half against UCF. Indiana was able to do what it wanted offensively against Southern Illinois, which still almost wasn’t good enough to pull out a victory. FIU has more talent on the defensive end with the likes of linemen Denzell Perine and Mike Wakefield. Turner’s group is young, but experienced. The Panthers racked up 13 plays for loss last week, and made yards hard to come by for UCF. Indiana wants to establish balance. In order for that to happen, the Hoosiers can’t have plays blown up in the backfield by a group that’s going to take some chances.
Prediction: Indiana 31, FIU 28
Yes, the Hoosiers will need another comeback at home against a lesser opponent. Nate Sudfeld and Ricky Jones pick up where they left off, but the IU ground game that showed so much promise takes a minor step back. The defense doesn’t look quite as awful as it did last week, and it gets the late stop it needs to fend off Turner’s upset-hungry bunch.