Sep 8, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) runs the ball against Massachusetts Minutemen defensive lineman Robert Kitching (75) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
Well, so begins a new era with IU when the previous era had barely started in its own right. The time behind center that Tre Roberson had looked promising and something that we could consistently rely upon from week to week. Now we're in a boat of uncertainty and it isn't easy to tell what exactly we should expect from this week's Hoosiers. At least on the offensive end.
First of all, despite the adversity that the Hoosiers are going through, expectation #1 has to be a win. No win and it won't be the easiest thing to be optimistic about. Sure Vegas has us down to only a 2.5 point favorite to this point, but that is setting lines more so on what the Hoosiers were last season than what we've shown to date this season. No bookie to this point would set lines on our showings against Indiana State and UMass (no offense to those programs), not with our umm... history... of turning positives into negatives very quickly. So with that in mind, I'm taking that Vegas line as a historical bias and not what the actual line should be.
Although we must keep in mind that home field advantage is a -3 so Vegas would set the line on a neutral field at IU -5.5 which sounds more correct in my mind. (Editor's note: the game is in Bloomington).
Either way, the defense needs to continue to show improvement in a win. Against ISU they looked a little lost at times and had issues with communication and that carried over in the second drive of the UMass game, but after that IU settled down and played some very good defense against a sub-par opponent. They have to improve upon that now against a better opponent. Ball State is bringing back 4 of their 5 offensive linemen that dominated IU at the line of scrimmage last year, but IU is returning the nearly the whole D-Line with some actual experience under their belt. I don't expect their showing to be as poor as last year, in fact we should expect them to be a net positive.
Ball State is currently 8th in the FBS in rushing yards so that is where the point of attack is coming from. They average 290 a game to this point. IU should bring that average way down. If Ball State gets more than 200 than we should be upset. The number is set so high there because even against #12 Clemson they ran the ball very well. Still let's cap that at 200 for the sake of showing the rest of the nation we aren't traffic cones anymore.
On the passing side the DBs need to fly to the ball no matter the play. Ball State's run, run, run, run, pass, run, run style has the potential to lull the young DBs to sleep but that can't happen. They need to be on their toes and I expect them to generate one turnover on Saturday. Ball State's passing game isn't that good and if the DBs can stay aware and active they can hold them to less than 100 yards in the air while also making sure that the RBs don't break off any big plays.
Offensively IU will be a little more of an enigma. Fans should expect to see some sort of sign from Cam Coffman that he can handle the load. I'm not sure there is any tangible evidence that can convince me of that or not. I feel like it is just going to have to be the eye test. Did he look good? Did he keep turnovers down? Did he hit guys when they were open? If that's a yes then the day was a success for the passing game. Rhythm will be an expected road bump and some miscommunication will occur, but the offense has to work past that.
Finally, the run game has to carry that load. I think that is going to fall on the young offensive line. They looked especially good at UMass last Saturday and need to take that confidence into the game. If they can clear space the running backs certainly have the ability to punish the defense. I want to see over 200 yards rushing out of the run game on Saturday in order to alleviate some of the pressure on Coffman and the receivers. If the run game can get going then this game can be won in the trenches with some help from the pass.
If Indiana can meet these expectations I would expect a 2 possession victory from the Hoosiers on Saturday. Truly if Indiana can limit the Cardinal run game then the rest should fall into place rather nicely. Those are my expectations, what are yours? What do you think IU needs to do to make sure Ball State doesn't enjoy their Saturday night?