Game Info / How to Watch
Where? Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
When? Saturday, Sep. 21, Noon
Vegas? Indiana -27.5
SP+ Projection? Indiana by 32.2 (40-8), 97 percent chance of Hoosier victory
Once again it’s nearly time to participate in “hoosier football” as IU hosts UConn. Last week the Hoosiers got blasted by Ohio State in what was possibly one of the most forgettable games in recent years because after a while all of the missed tackles and Buckeye touchdowns fade together. The good news is that this week’s game probably won’t end like last week’s did.
The Huskies, to put it simply, are not good at football. UConn’s program has gone downhill over the last handful of years and is now regarded as one of the worst in the country. SP+ has the Huskies ranked 124th in the nation. Out of 130 teams. Their cohorts in the caboose of the college football train? New Mexico State, UT-San Antonio and Akron to name a few.
UConn has played two games so far this season as they’re coming off of a bye week. In their first matchup they took down an institution called “Wagner College” by three points. Upon further research (read: a Google search) the Wagner Seahawks is an FCS team that has made the playoffs once in the past 26 years.
Their last time out, the Huskies put a scare into Illinois, a notoriously good football team. The Illini managed to escape with a 31-23 win despite UConn holding a 10-0 lead early in the game. Despite UConn’s lack of, well, basically anything that would possibly give IU a reason to fret heading into this game, some people are worried. IU head coach Tom Allen was kind enough to give some positive coachspeak about the Huskies earlier this week:
“I played against them when I was at South Florida, so a little more familiar with them. I would compare them body type wise to Virginia, that’s who they remind me of in terms of they got a lot of good length, a lot of good looking players, and they’re an improved football team. There’s no doubt.”
Here’s a list of fun statistical facts about the Huskies:
-They’re averaging 2.7 yards per carry as a team
-They’ve yet to score a passing touchdown
-SP+ ranks their offense as the worst in all of FBS
What to Watch
1. Penix Watch
Once again IU quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is considered a game-time decision. He’s still dealing with the shoulder injury that took him out of the Eastern Illinois game and held him out of the Ohio State game. It’ll be one of the big storylines heading into the game as it is anytime there’s a question around who will play quarterback for one of the teams, but in theory it shouldn’t matter a whole lot. Ramsey should be able to take care of business against UConn. The real target for Penix’s return should be the Michigan State game next week.
2. Tackling and Takeaways
The IU defense hasn’t looked like a typical Tom Allen defense so far this season. The group got absolutely shredded by Justin Fields and the Buckeyes, though that unit could be one of the best in the country. The more worrying thing is combining that with IU’s so-so at best performance against Ball State. There have been quite a few missed tackles so far this season and when combined with just two takeaways in three games that’s enough to frustrate a coach.
“It’s not good enough, it’s not our standard,” Allen said. “Takeaways, tackling and efforts. So two of those three things to me aren’t getting done. Not happy at all and we got to get it fixed.”
Look for the Hoosier defense to take advantage of a poor, poor UConn offense in this one. SP+ has the Huskies projected to score eight points in this game. If IU gives up much more than that, at least before garbage time, there might be a reason to be concerned.
3. The Ground Game
Another significant part of the team that’s struggled, IU’s running game needs to get it going against UConn. The running backs group features plenty of talent with guys like Stevie Scott, Ronnie Walker Jr. and Sampson James toting the rock. Despite that the Hoosiers are averaging just 3.1 yards per carry and the team’s second-leading rusher is Penix, who has only played in half of the games this season. That’s not good, obviously. There have also been a stark lack of big pickups on the ground. The longest carry by any running back this season is 10 yards. It’s not squarely on the backs. The offensive line has notably performed below expectations so far this season.
“I think it’s physicality at the point of attack for the whole group, not necessarily every single person but as a whole group,” Allen said. “And then being able to stay in there -- and sometimes it’s just about a matter of just being able to schematically and decision making wise just to be able to run the football more.”
This game shouldn’t be close but for the first few drives. Fans should be able to leave at halftime, but for a positive reason. Expect to see some of IU’s early-season demons exorcised as they beat up on an opponent with inferior talent to pick up the third win of the season.
Indiana 38, UConn 10