As the Big Ten enters its first nine-game conference schedule, Land of 10 examines each school before its league opener.
ANALYSIS: The Hoosiers are averaging more than 500 yards per game of offense but have scored only 92 points. They are second in the Big Ten in yards but seventh in points. Five turnovers against Wake Forest doomed them, but maybe worse are the penalties. Indiana is averaging 75.7 yards in penalties per game.
Richard Lagow needs to cut down on the turnovers, but he has eclipsed 1,000 yards passing in three games. Two experienced, productive receivers have returned this season with Ricky Jones and Mitchell Page, but sophomore Nick Westbrook has been a revelation, compiling a conference-leading 332 yards and a team-leading 4 touchdowns. The defense might be improved, especially if the offense doesn’t give the ball away. Just being a midpack defense could help Indiana take a step forward.
KEY GAME: vs. No. 17 Michigan State, Saturday, Memorial Stadium
There are five very winnable Big Ten games on the schedule, so stealing another victory against a ranked opponent could result in a 6-3 conference record, an impressive showing. The Spartans were thumped last week by Wisconsin and have injury issues so this could be a good time to pounce. Having a night game at home could help as well.
KEY PLAYER: Devine Redding, RB
The Hoosiers are clearly going to be able to sling it around on offense again, but making sure Redding will be able to provide some balance is going to be critical against the better defenses in the Big Ten.
FIRST MATCHUP: vs. No. 17 Michigan State (2-1), 8 p.m. EST, Saturday, Memorial Stadium
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: The Hoosiers finally solve some long-term issues on the defensive side of the ball and pour on the points against the underbelly of the Big Ten. Iowa and Penn State continue to struggle, and a 6-3 mark makes Indiana a top-seven finisher in conference play.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Lagow continues to throw the ball to the wrong team, the Hoosiers still can’t stop Big Ten offenses and the penalties problem becomes a constant source of consternation. Several close games get blown by self-inflicted errors, and there is no bowl game at the end of the season.
REALISTIC SCENARIO: Indiana wins one conference game it isn’t supposed to, but can’t quite be consistent enough to punch its way up to first-division status. There is a fourth straight win against Purdue, which would tie the program record in the series. There is also a second consecutive bowl appearance for the first time since 1990-91.