Breaking it down: IU has to come up with answer for high-powered WKU
Who: Western Kentucky vs. Indiana
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Indiana
TV: ESPN News
Spread: Indiana -2
Matchup to watch: Brandon Doughty vs. IU secondary
Nobody in college football threw for more yards than the Western Kentucky quarterback dud last year. What has the inexperienced IU secondary specialized in this year? Giving up a lot of yards. The Hoosiers rank 121st in FBS at 347 passing yards per game allowed. What’s more troubling is the fact that IU did that against Florida International and FCS Southern Illinois. Against a guy who can shred defenses, that might be a problem. The Hoosiers need more than just the possible return of Chase Dutra to solidify this secondary. Getting a pass rush — from more guys than just Nick Mangieri — would also be a major lift to a group facing its toughest challenge yet. IU will get linebacker Tegray Scales back from suspension, which should help. But even the Hoosiers at full strength might not have an answer for Doughty.
Thing I’m excited for: A shootout
As much of a concern as the IU secondary is against Doughty, it isn’t like the Hilltoppers are loaded with lockdown defensive backs. This is a group that just coughed up 357 passing yards to Louisiana Tech last week. Nate Sudfeld should have no problem doing the same. He isn’t in midseason form yet — he’ll improve on his 58.5 percent passing — and the IU offense is still averaging 42 points per game. Sudfeld hasn’t even been the Hoosiers’ top big-play option. Jordan Howard, who has been even better than advertised since transferring from UAB, will be heavily involved in what figures to be a high-scoring affair. Kevin Wilson might need to lean on Howard even more if Doughty is marching all over the IU defense.
Number to remember: 4
Every year of the Kevin Wilson era, the Hoosiers have lost a non-conference game to a non-Power Five team. Ball State, Bowling Green, Navy and North Texas all handed the Hoosiers a disappointing early loss, and made that six-win goal that much tougher. This is the year that streak has to end. IU cannot afford to let the Hilltoppers hand them a loss because of the possible bowl implications, and because of the effect it could have on fan support. The Hoosiers might be a month away from another possible home victory if they don’t fend off WKU. What starts right around that time? IU basketball, which annually results in a steep decline in interest for the football team. Kevin Wilson knows it, IU Athletic Director Fred Glass knows it and those players know it. There’s no room for error.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 52, Indiana 48
The over/under for this one is way too low. Does Vegas really think these teams will only combine for 72 points? I’ll take the WAY over, with the Hilltoppers doing exactly what IU’s first opponents did — get out to an early lead and put themselves in position to win late. Only this time, IU isn’t able to get the stop it needs.