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Indiana Football vs. Bowling Green Preview: Gut Check Time

Bowling Green crosses the state line to take on the Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium. Will Indiana be able to calm themselves and put together a complete game, or do they unravel before the season really even begins?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

This is it for Indiana. In game three, we're already looking at a make or break moment for the Hoosiers. Going to a bowl is contingent upon them going 3-1 in the non-conference. They could finish 2-2 but that would be a very big uphill battle to fight. So this is what we're looking at. The defense has something to prove against a decent traditional offense in Bowling Green and the offense needs to prove that they can move the ball at will on a quality college football defense. There's a lot to prove on Saturday.

The Hoosiers primary task on Saturday is to prove that the defense isn't entirely inept. Surprisingly, I've seen a lot of fans out there giving the Hoosiers the benefit of the doubt after facing the Navy triple option (Except Purdue people, but they need something to make themselves feel better). Everyone knows it's a crazy out there offense that isn't the easiest to defend. So if non-fans are taking a wait and see approach, I feel that's probably best for Hoosier nation until Saturday. As covered in the Bowling Green team preview, BG runs a much more traditional offense, with one main QB and one main RB. In fact, in this day and age the fact that they have a single primary back instead of two or three is probably what is unique about them.

Lots of running the football as their plays run to pass are nearly 2 to 1. They're going to run the football and they're going to run it a lot. This is where we see our first big match up of the game. The defensive line has got to generate some sort of push so that the linebackers can quickly find the gaps to fill. Against Navy, the defense was blown of the line countless times. That can't happen this week. Travis Greene is running for 5 yards a carry on 46 carries with his longest only being 27 yards. So he's not using long runs to inflate his average. He's a constant. The line has to make it harder for him to find a hole.

The linebackers are also going to bear a lot of responsibility in handling the run game. True freshman TJ Simmons had an amazing game against Indiana State in his first start. He followed it up with a very freshman performance against Navy. That can't happen again. Yes he's a freshman, but he won that spot in camp. He now has to play like we would expect an upperclassmen to play. Of course, Simmons isn't the only one. David Cooper and Flo Hardin are also responsible for the play against Navy and most defensive efforts through the year are going to start and end with them. They have to be better and they have to be consistent.

In coverage, I can't heap too much blame on the secondary for the Navy game. Certainly everyone on the team was responsible for the horrendous tackling, but they were defenders of last resort last Saturday. Not the first line of defense. In coverage they only had to defend four attempts. Matt Johnson and company are going to throw more than that. The biggest threat at the wideout position will be Shaun Joplin. He's Johnson's safety blanket and a deep threat. On 8 receptions he has nearly 20 yards per catch. His longest being 35. He's not going to be running short routs. Everything will be 10 yards and deeper. Tim Bennett will match up with him. In coverage, Bennett has been very good. We'll be looking for him to continue that.

The rest of the BG receivers haven't showed to be too big of a threat. Ryan Burbrink has 4 receptions for 125 yards. However, all but 33 of those came on one reception. Chris Gallon will be their second threat. Even he only has 7 receptions. Bowling Green is going to use the run to set up the pass. We're going to see a lot of run, run, pass and it is up to the defense to make sure punt is the final part of that sequence. I think they'll fare much better this week in doing that.

On offense, expect to see Nate Sudfeld right away this time. Kevin Wilson is playing coy in press conferences like he doesn't know for certain who is going to start at quarterback, but let's get real. Sudfeld is the the guy. Expect him to be throwing it early and often. Indiana is at their best when they're attacking through the air. I wouldn't expect him to throw it 42 times again, because I don't expect to spot Bowling Green 17 points like we did with Navy. But Nate's going to be spreading the ball around. What we should expect is turnover free football. Bowling Green's whole defense is experienced and quite good. The decision making will be the most important aspect of the offense on Saturday. BG will read you and jump your routes if you gamble. I'm looking for Sudfeld to shore up the mistakes he's made in his first two games with careless interceptions.

Look for Cody Latimer to get more touches this week. He's currently 4th on the team in receptions despite being arguably the best receiver. The coaches have said that they'll be looking to run more plays his way, but they aren't going to force it. Still, I'd expect Latimer's size and speed to be a factor in this one. He's hungry and Bowling Green can't just focus on him or Kofi Hughes and Ted Bolser will light them up all day long. Bowling Green won't be capable of cheating too much over the top on Latimer or they'll be burned in other locations.

On the running side of things, Tevin Coleman will continue to be our guy. He's been great through two games. Didn't get a lot of opportunity against Navy, but that was more circumstantial than any commentary on Coleman. Should see him get 15-20 carries. His ability isn't completely dependent on the offensive line, because he's shifty and explosive, but their performance would certainly help. Unfortunately we're already looking at a hobbled core of linemen. I haven't heard anything on the Bernard Taylor injury against Navy, but if he isn't ready to go we're already down three starters on the season. Jake Reed will likely get the nod in his place. The line has to be serviceable at least. Bowling Green's defensive line can be terrifying if not.

Overall, I still think Indiana has the advantage over Bowling Green. Last I heard the line was 2.5, but that feels low. I'm going to put my money on Indiana to cover. Should probably see more of a shootout in the process. Give me the Hoosiers to take this game and get back on track. Indiana 38 - Bowling Green 31