The last time Northwestern faced Indiana, both teams put up an immense amount of points as the Wildcats got past the Hoosiers 59-38 last season.
This Saturday, Northwestern will host Indiana in its conference opener at Ryan Field. The Wildcats have gone 4-0 and will face its first Big Ten test of the season at home.
After beginning Big Ten play with four consecutive losses in 2011, the Wildcats are focused on erasing the memories of last season and it starts with a win over Indiana. The Hoosiers enter the contest with a 2-1 mark but without its star quarterback Tre Roberson, who broke his leg against Massachusetts in week two.
Indiana could benefit from the extra time they’ve had to prepare for Northwestern as the team is coming off a bye week. The Hoosiers haven’t played since Sept. 15 when they lost at home to Ball State 41-39.
Offensive Players to Watch: Indiana will have to account for Northwestern’s spread attack on offense as the Wildcats have been able to rush the ball effectively with running backs Venric Mark, Mike Trumpy and quarterback Kain Colter. Northwestern currently ranks 27th in the nation in rushing at 221.3 yards per game.
Indiana, however, could counter that with its trio of running backs who’ve gained over 135 yards rushing through three games this season. Junior tailback Stephen Houston leads the team with 164 yards rushing and is followed by freshman Tevin Coleman’s 146 yards and sophomore D’Angelo Roberts.
The Hoosiers have done well in one complete game without Roberson as Cam Coffman has 410 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Coffman, a junior college transfer, will find out how difficult it is to win a conference game on the road.
Northwestern will more than likely employ its dual-quarterback system against Indiana and with good reason, as it’s been effective. Since Trevor Siemian has begun taking snaps, he’s thrown for 364 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Colter’s numbers are equally impressive as he’s thrown for 367 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Defensive Players to Watch: The Wildcats rushing defense has been one of the best in the conference through four games. Northwestern has held its opponents to an average of 78 rushing yards thanks in large part to its defensive line. Defensive ends Tyler Scott and Quentin Williams have done a better job this season containing the rush while linebackers Chi Chi Ariguzo, Damien Proby and David Nwabusi have complemented the defense as well.
Indiana defensive tackles Adam Replogle, Larry Black Jr. and Nicholas Sliger will try to prevent the Wildcats from running effectively on Saturday. The Hoosiers defense hasn’t been its strongest asset this season but they’ve held opponents to 21 points per game.
Special Teams Players to Watch: Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien is enjoying a career year thus far. Budzien has made all eight field goal attempts with his longest coming from 42 yards. Punt/kick returner Mark hasn’t had a punt return for a touchdown since week one but he could end that drought on Saturday.
Nick Stoner of Indiana hasn’t returned any punts or kicks for touchdowns and has averaged only 13 yards per return. Shane Wynn hasn’t fared any better as he’s averaging 21.7 yards a kick return this season.
Bold Prediction: Northwestern 27 Indiana 7
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