Indiana has to be the most optimistic 3-5 program in the nation. They still control their own destiny and if they do work here in the last month, could find themselves in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. That march towards Indy has to start in Bloomington this Saturday. The Hoosiers #1 expectation for this game is to win. They're favorites, at home, with momentum against a beat up and down trodden Iowa team. For a "not great" team like Indiana, this Saturday can't set up much better in conference.
First off, Indiana has to improve it's run defense. Defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler said it to the media at the start of this week and I would tend to agree, the Illinois game was one of the worst executed games defensively this year. Certainly they held Illinois to 17 points, but they also let an awful run game look respectable. The Hoosiers have to shore that up. Part of that has to do with the Illini line being a sieve. In turn every Hoosier defender smelled blood in the water. It resulted in 7 sacks but very undisciplined play. Indiana is going to have to shore that up and remained focus or Iowa even with their 12th string running back will treat the Indiana game like a track meet. The Hawkeyes (mostly due to injury) do not run well. IU needs to make sure that continues. Any more than 150 yds on the ground is unsettling.
As for the passing defense, the line needs to continue with the pace they set against Illinois. 7 sacks is pretty awesome and though not all of them came from the line, much of it was set up by the line. The DEs got great pressure on the edges and the DTs had enough push in the middle that there was no pocket for the QB to step into. Thus he had to flush out of the pocket and leave him open for the LBs to clean up. Indiana has to continue with that. The DBs just need to buy the line time. Iowa will be missing the receiving threats from the past. IU has to capitalize. Hold the passing game under 250 yds and we should be good.
On offense, I'm guessing that the Nate Sudfeld era has begun. Cam Coffman has been OK but inconsistent. Thus he was pulled 2 drives into last week's game. In turn, true freshman Nate Sudfeld came in and looked good. I'm going to guess Sudfeld's play continues. We should get a more even play for all sixty minutes against Iowa. The offense has to come in and score fast. Iowa has a terrible habit of digging themselves a hole very quickly. Both against Northwestern and Penn State they spotted the opposition 20+ points. IU has to come out firing and do the same to the Hawkeyes. Score 24+ for the 10th straight game and I would be feeling pretty confident that the Hoosiers come away with a W.
Overall, I want to see the Hoosiers to start to play like frontrunners. We're going to play some pretty mediocre teams going forward and the Hoosiers have to play like the favorites. That means coming out firing on all cylinders and not getting conservative with the lead. There are 4 games to play and 3 of them are very winnable. But first, Indiana has to start with a great run on Saturday.