2010 record: 2-4 (2-2)
2009 record: 4-8
2010 Sagarin: 143
Conference: Sun Belt
Coach: Steve Roberts (9th season 43-59)
Series: first meeting
TV: noon Saturday, ESPNU
Indiana nears the halfway point of the season with more question marks than ever. The outcome of tomorrow's homecoming game against Arkansas State shouldn't be one of those question marks, but it will be yet another opportunity to determine if the defense can make any opponent look bad, and will be the first opportunity to see if IU can run the ball with any success now that Darius Willis is sidelined for the season with a knee injury.
The Red Wolves are, like earlier IU opponent Western Kentucky, a team from the Sun Belt Conference, and they have been a member of Division I-A since 1992. The Sun Belt is roughly comparable to the MAC, and while the Red Wolves generally have fallen short against major conference competition, but not always: the Red Wolves won at Texas A&M in 2008. Also, last season, ASU gave Iowa a scare. IU is favored by double digits, but the Red Wolves do pose a threat. While the Red Wolves are only 2-4 (2-2 in the Sun Belt and with non-conference losses to Auburn and Louisville), they haven't yet been shut down offensively. ASU has scored at least 24 points in all of its games, including in its loss at BCS contender Auburn.
Quarterback Ryan Aplin has been a big part of the ASU offense. Although his completion percentage of 56 is not good, he is averaging 262 yards per game and has thrown 10 TD passes to 4 interceptions. Aplin also is the Red Wolves second-leading rusher, with 207 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns so far. Derek Lawson, with 289 yards, 3 TD, and 4.4 yards per carry, is the Wolves' top rusher. Lawson averaged 6 yards per carry against Louisville, a team that may be better than expected. Aplin has spread the wealth to a number of receivers. Allen Muse, Dwayne Frampton, and Taylor Stockemer all have between 289 and 387 receiving yards and 2 to 3 touchdowns.
In many respects, the Red Wolves are similar to IU. Arkansas State ranks #44 in total offense but #115 in total defense. ASU's rushing defense is particularly bad. They are allowing 230 yards per game on the ground and 5.3 yards per carry. If IU can't run the ball against these guys, we aren't going to run the ball against anyone.
So, what do we want to see tomorrow? First, of course, a win. In the last five seasons, IU has two losses to MAC schools and 1 to a I-AA school, so we are in no position to take any game for granted. Beyond that, the Red Wolves will present a challenge for IU's defense, but an opportunity for that unit to show improvement. There is little doubt that IU will be able to generate points and yards in the air, but the running game tomorrow will be something to watch, both for general productivity and to see which back or backs emerge in Willis's absence. I tend to think that the running game will improve but that the defense will be the defense.
Indiana 42, Arkansas State 28.