After the mixed reviews on last weeks game with Indiana State I thought it might be a little easier for us to judge whether or not Indiana football was a success in their weekly war in the trenches. Last Saturday I read and heard everything from Indiana was absolutely terrible across the board to every unit showed flashes of great improvement as the team improved as a whole when the game wore on. So today we're actually going to try and set the bar and then measure the Hoosiers in accordance with set expectations on the following days of analysis.
First off, a win is the first and foremost expectation for the Hoosiers this coming Saturday. Anything less than that is a pretty huge failure for Indiana. I think we can all agree that without a W on the day then it doesn't matter what happens within the game we should be pretty upset. This isn't necessarily poo-pooing on the Minutemen but a team brand new to this level of football who failed to break 60 yards in total offense in their first game against a meh opponent should not suddenly show up and beat Indiana. I don't care how bad we've been in the past this game is a must win or panic.
As for specific statistics we should expect Indiana to make a very strong showing on the defensive end. The line should be able to enforce it's will on UMass a little better than it did against Indiana State. Certainly after seeing the first game for both respective teams, we can conclude that Indiana should be capable of generating a ton of pressure on the QB and forcing mistakes and poor decisions. UConn only had 2 sacks on the game but they spent a ton of time wreaking havoc in the backfield. IU needs to do the same thing. They should grab a couple sacks in this game and force UMass to make some tough decisions. If the Minutemen make some showing in the air then we can get a little concerned about where this season is going.
In the run game, UMass only 3 yards on 24 carries. That is stunningly bad. You can't expect anyone to replicate that sort of defensive effort again. I don't care if the '85 Bears were playing the Little Giants, I would expect the pee wee football team to be able to sneak out a couple yards in 24 carries. Instead, I'll set the bar pretty "low" for the Indiana run defense. 75 yards should be the cap. If Indiana gives up anything approaching triple digits or better yet, a per carry rate over 3 yards a carry fans should be upset. UMass was so poor at running the ball in their first game there is nowhere to go but up. Indiana needs to make sure it's just not too far up.
Defensively as a whole IU shouldn't allow more than 200 total yards or so. I'm not going to demand a shutout because things happen and with this young team still figuring things out I wouldn't be shocked to see a big play for the UMass offense at some point going to the house. They just have to limit it to once. I'd prefer none, but baby steps is all we can ask from a team that gave up the most 60+ yard plays in college football last year. The defense must be great but they don't have to be flawless like UConn was last Thursday.
On offense I expect the ball to be moved up the field quickly. Tre Roberson showed some great quarterbacking against ISU and was able to direct the offense very well. I expect more of the same this week. The quick pace of the offense should keep UMass on tilt and be able to sustain long drives. I would love to see the offense take some gambles and go long for some quick strike attempts as well. We'll still likely see a lot of bubble screens, throws to the flat and quick outs, but those must be crisp.
The running game should show the biggest jump from last week to this. UConn wasn't all that great in this facet of the game. They only ran for about 3.4 yards per carry and never really broke off a big play. Indiana should be different. They have a solid stable of running backs and should be able to grind it out if they have a good lead in the second half. I would expect at least 4 yards a carry from the IU stable. Even if/when the play calling gets predictable due to the in game scenario.
In the end, fans should be looking for a efficient and mistake free (see turnovers) offensive game on Saturday afternoon. 400 yards of offense and 24+ points should be expected. The UMass secondary isn't a slouch as their safety Darren Thellen was making plays all game against UConn, but they shouldn't upset the apple cart.
Expectations shouldn't be sky high. The Hoosiers don't need to replicate the near perfect defensive results that Connecticut had last Thursday but they need to improve on the Huskies so-so offense. If Indiana can show they're a different team than last year then 2-0 should be a gimme. Mentally it will be hard for a team to walk into a large but mostly empty stadium and be geared to go but that is what Indiana must show. They get one drive to have a "slow start" before fans can complain. However, if Indiana comes out firing they should have no problem going up against Ball State with a 2-0 record.