For the first time that I can remember, IU's homecoming opponent will be a team from outside the Big Ten. I can't immediately find a list of IU's homecoming opponents, but I'll look into it further as the game approaches. IU's non-conference schedule is justifiably considered one of the weakest in the country (actually the weakest, according to everyone who has tried to quantify it). Still, Arkansas State, from the Sun Belt Conference, can't be ignored. ASU moved up to Division I-A in 1992, and like so many teams in the lower levels of FBS, had a proud history in lower divisions. The Red Wolves (then the Indians, actually) were voted the "college division" national champions in 1970 (back when the NCAA was divided into the college division and the university division) and advanced to the I-AA championship game in 1986, which they lost to Georgia Southern. Since moving up to I-A, ASU has been had two separate stints as a member of the Big West, but has been a member of the Sun Belt Conference since 2001. Prior to making the leap, ASU had won 52 percent of its games all time. Since then, it has won 33 percent.
If IU fans remember anything about Arkansas State, however, it's that the Red Wolves very nearly upset Iowa in Iowa City last year. Iowa nearly blew a 14-point lead against ASU, which had a Hail Mary opportunity on the final play. In 2008, ASU upset Texas A&M in College Station. While this is faint praise, Arkansas State, based on recent results, appears to be the class of IU's non-conference schedule.
Quarterback Ryan Aplin, now a sophomore, didn't play against Iowa, but he appears to have won the starting job by the end of the season. He completed 65 percent of his 118 pass attempts, but he also had only 3 TDs to 6 INTs. Also, he ran for 243 yards and 4 touchdowns on 4 yards per carry. The ASU offense was fairly anemic last year, ranking #95 out of 120 teams in FBS. Still, the Red Wolves lost their only running back who made any major contribution, and their top returning rusher is Aplin, followed by Derek Lawson. Their leading returning receiver scored one touchdown and gained 347 yards last season. Still, by the time IU plays the Red Wolves, it will be midseason.
I suppose it's inconsistent for me to be worried about Western Kentucky because WKU will be seasoned by its tough competition in weeks 1 and 2, and then be nervous about this game because IU will be coming off tough game against Michigan and Ohio State. Still, this is a team that made a run at Iowa and played a close game against Louisville as well. By the middle of the 2010 season, we should have a better read on the Hoosiers, but games like this were the same sort of games that tripped up the 2006 and 2008 teams.