After a tough end to the non-conference schedule with a 45-24 loss to Cincinnati, the Hoosiers now jump back to Big Ten play against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and you can catch it on the Big Ten Network.
This Saturday will be a crucial game for Indiana if it wants a chance at making a bowl game later in the year. Looking at the rest of their schedule, the Hoosiers face the elite of the Big Ten east in the coming weeks, and games like these almost become a must-win for this team.
Taking a look at the Cornhuskers
After a disappointing 1-2 start to the season, Nebraska fired head coach Scott Frost before the end of his fifth year with the team. Mickey Joseph will take the reins for of the Huskers for the rest of the season, as he hopes to turn this team around after a tough opening three games.
In Joseph’s debut game as head coach two weeks ago, the team lost 49-14 to a very talented Oklahoma team. Nebraska is coming off a bye week, so Joseph and company have had plenty of time to gameplan for Saturday night in Lincoln against the Hoosiers.
Nebraska likes to do a little bit of everything offensively. Quarterback Casey Thompson likes to throw the football, as he already has 117 pass attempts on the season and has completed 65% of those throws. Thompson loves his main target wide receiver Trey Palmer, as he leads the team with 28 receptions.
But the running game is really where Indiana could get tripped up, as Anthony Grant has proved to be a capable running back throughout the season. Although he struggled against a much improved Oklahoma team defensively, he has shown that he is capable of putting up 150+ yard stat lines up in past games. The Huskers love feeding Grant the ball as well, as he already has 82 rushing attempts just four games into the season.
Defense isn’t Nebraska’s strong suit to say the least. The Huskers are last in the Big Ten in team defense, letting up 35.5 points per game to opponents. Allowing over 40 points in their past two games is quite concerning for the Huskers, which could open up some room for Connor Bazelak and the Indiana offense to score some points.
Keys for the Hoosiers
Slowing down Nebraska’s offense will be crucial if Indiana wants to walk out of Lincoln with a win. Tiawan Mullen and the rest of the secondary are going to need a big bounce back performance in order to slow down Mickey Joseph’s offense. Covering Palmer and limiting his catches will need to be a priority if the Hoosier secondary doesn’t want a repeat of what happened last week.
The front seven will also need to play a huge role in Saturday night’s game. With Nebraska loving to run the ball, forcing Thompson into long-distance situations by stopping the run will only help out Bazelak and the Indiana offense. I look for linebackers Cam Jones and Aaron Casey to become a huge part of Tom Allen’s defensive gameplan in Lincoln.
Lastly, everything starts with the quarterback. Yes, it will most likely be a hostile environment at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln on Saturday night being a night game. But it’s important that Bazelak and the rest of the Indiana offense stay composed and limit their mistakes. This is a perfect bounce back opportunity for Bazelak, after what was not his best day against Cincinnati.
Overall, this is almost a must-win for the Hoosiers when talking about bowl contention. With Michigan coming into town the following week, Indiana needs to beat some of the less talented teams in the Big Ten if it wants to go bowling in the winter. If Indiana has a sound game defensively and doesn’t let the passionate Husker fans get to the players on offense, Indiana could very well sneak out of Lincoln with its fourth win of the season.