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Roundtable discussion: Biggest questions for Indiana approaching home opener with Idaho

After a disastrous start to the 2021 season, Tom Allen and the Hoosiers have been open and honest about the mistakes at hand. Indiana will flush week one’s loss and face Idaho in its home opener at Memorial Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. 

The Hoosier Network’s football crew Griffin Gonzalez, Jack Ankony and William McDermott tackle week two’s most pressing questions in this week’s roundtable preview:

Will we see the same Michael Penix Jr. on Saturday that we saw in Iowa City?

Griffin: I really hope not. As much as I would love to say that the Iowa game was a fluke, I can’t. I think Penix is one heck of a QB but he isn’t the QB who is going to create something of absolutely nothing. Especially after three season-ending injuries. Certainly he will be better but don’t hop on the #Penix4Heisman train just yet. 

Jack: A road game in Iowa City in week one is about as tough as it could get for Michael Penix Jr. coming off ACL surgery. But that doesn’t change the fact that he didn’t look comfortable at any point on Saturday. He’ll certainly be in a more comfortable environment at Memorial Stadium on Saturday against Idaho, which could be a starting point for Penix to regain his confidence.

William: No. Michael Penix Jr. had the worst game of his career last week and obviously it’s unlikely he performs that poorly again. I think it’s really important for him to start off consistent and have a good opening drive. If he can do that, build confidence and get the offense rolling it’ll be smooth sailing. 

Idaho won 68-0 in week one. How worried should Indiana be about the Vandals?

Jack: You have to be capable on both sides of the ball to hang 68 points on an opponent and allow zero. Tom Allen recognized Idaho’s duo of FCS All-Americans at running back and receiver, which should challenge an Indiana defense that will be without Devon Matthews and Jaylin Williams due to injury.

William: The Vandals are by no means a cake walk and if Indiana plays them that way, it’ll show on the field. Although, everyone knows Idaho is a step down from No. 10 Iowa, and it will be a good opportunity for the Hoosiers to respond and gain confidence heading into a game against No. 7 Cincinnati. 

Griffin: They beat Simon Fraser. Indiana shouldn’t be too concerned. 

What can the Indiana defense do to fix the mistakes that allowed 34 points in week one?

William: To be fair, I think the defense played very well last weekend. It never helps when your offense spots the other team 17 points and aside from that opening drive where Tyler Goodson had the 56-yard touchdown run, the group was locked in. In the second half, Charlton Warren’s defense was spot-on, only giving up three points but by the fourth the game was already lost.

An area of concern is the Devon Matthews injury but Josh Sanguinetti filled in very nicely for the rest of the game. 

Griffin: The defense really only gave up 17 points in week one. I would even argue that Iowa’s offense only truly earned 10 points on the entire day. I think the defense for Indiana will win the Hoosiers a lot of games this year. The bigger question to me is whether or not the offense can match it.

Jack: It’s all about Indiana starting strong against Idaho. The season opener at Iowa was essentially over in three minutes after Tyler Goodson’s long touchdown run and Penix’s pick six shortly after. Indiana is a defense that feasts on turnovers, which could be a recipe for shutting down Idaho and kickstarting Penix and the offense. 

Injuries and inexperience are plentiful on the offensive line, will they be able to protect Penix Jr. and spark Indiana’s run game on Saturday?

Griffin: Yes. More because of the fact they are playing Idaho. It’s not that this offensive line is bad, it just lacks experience and size necessary to be the power running offense that Nick Sheridan wants to go with. They should look better this week but if they cannot improve in leaps and bounds, it will be a long year for Stephen Carr. 

Jack: We still don’t know the five Hoosiers who will form the offensive line on Saturday, but the change in opponent alone will make them look better. Iowa’s reputation for decades has been controlling the line of scrimmage, and the Hawkeyes did just that all game long against Indiana. If Penix can’t find his rhythm against Idaho, expect a big game from Stephen Carr. 

William: They will. The offensive line’s struggles restricted Penix’s ability to move the ball and while Iowa has an extremely strong front seven it just seemed like Penix was running for his life every snap. Stephen Carr also never got going averaging three yards a carry. I would like to see them work off the tackles more, especially off the side of Matthew Bedford. That’s where the most success came from last season on the ground.

Saturday should be a good opportunity for the group to gain chemistry and experience playing together in a game where they don’t have to play perfect to win or for the offense to succeed.

Facing an FCS team, how much can Saturday’s result really tell us about the Hoosiers?

Jack: It’s going to tell us a lot or almost nothing. In the case that Indiana loses, it will tell us that Tom Allen has a disaster on his hands. More likely, though, a win can go a long way for Indiana’s confidence. Penix needs to see his receivers reach the end zone for his personal confidence, but even in a blowout win for Indiana, we can’t draw too many concrete conclusions about the big picture outlook of this team. 

William: Not a lot. While this is a good opportunity for the Hoosiers to gain confidence and experience as a team after an abomination of a last week, it won’t tell us things we didn’t already know coming into the season. It’s also hard to judge any team after week one in an environment like Iowa City. No one will praise you for beating a team you should have beaten. 

Griffin: I won’t lie, Idaho is just a confidence game. It is an opportunity for the Hoosiers to show what they have and try to build some form of momentum heading into the big Cincinnati game next week. I fully expect Indiana to flex its muscles, go up big early, and then sit on it so you don’t give away too much on film. 

My name is Jack Ankony and I am a sophomore from Mount Prospect, Illinois. I am a huge Chicago sports fan who loves to write and talk about sports.

One Comment

  • Mark Newlin says:

    What can the defense do to not give up 34 points, last Saturday it was to not let the offense on the field as they gave Iowa 17 points.

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