The Indiana Hoosiers offer the Nebraska Cornhuskers perhaps the best possible option in terms of opposition following their bye week. Sitting at No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, the Big Red enjoys a spotlight it hasn’t seen in what seems like forever and a day. Now, they get a chance to show that they deserve the spot, something debated even by Nebraska fans themselves.
Indiana’s offense appears able to give Nebraska’s defense one of its best challenges to date next to Oregon.
Quarterback Richard Lagow leads the 26th-best passing attack in the country, having completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,460 for 11 touchdowns on the season. He’s also thrown seven interceptions. However, that number is largely skewed thanks to playing pitch-and-catch with Wake Forest defensive backs to the tune of five picks in a losing effort to the Demon Deacons, 33-28.
Nebraska head coach Mike Riley went into how Indiana looks to give defenses fits during his Monday press conference.
“They do a lot of stuff off of their play-action fake and of course, with the threat of their backs, it’s a very smart thing. Then with that, sometimes they’ll leave the tight end in and the faking back, sometimes he’ll become part of the protection, so they protect that quarterback pretty well.”
This is notable, as Nebraska’s linebackers have been a step slow as a unit this season, an unexpected setback. If the Hoosiers are able to freeze them, they’ll have a better chance against what’s proven to be a formidable Husker secondary thus far.
Indiana has a very capable starter at running back in Devine Redding who has totaled 491 yards on the season but has yet to score. While he may not be a threat to put points on the board, he does run for an average of 98 yards per game. With Lagow’s accuracy, the Blackshirts have to limit what Redding can do and force the Hoosiers to play one-dimensional.
The Hoosiers have four players questionable for Saturday’s game with the most notable being 2015 first-team All-American guard Dan Feeney.
While Indiana’s best offensive lineman may very well not play and they feature a true freshman and sophomore at the left and right tackle spots, respectively, the Hoosiers don’t make getting to Lagow easy. They’ve allowed only nine sacks through their first five games, including a single quarterback takedown against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Nebraska stick to the ground for a good chunk of the game considering Indiana’s giving up 170 yards rushing per contest. Coupled with the absence of wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp and tight end Cethan Carter, there appears to be every opportunity for the ‘Husker running backs to log plenty of time.
Indiana’s secondary ranks 36th in the nation but hasn’t faced a formidable passing attack to date (Nos. 79, 85, 86, 98 and 107). Big-play opportunities through the air are there for the taking for a deep Nebraska receiving corps.
Bottom line: The Hoosiers will test the ‘Huskers, especially considering the Big Red’s lack of depth at key offensive spots. I saw this as a game Nebraska could very well end up losing in the preseason and still feel that’s a possibility.
However, if the ‘Huskers can continue their new trend of keeping penalties to a minimum, not gifting turnovers and remaining titanium-solid in the fourth quarter, they should best the Crimson and Cream.