There is no other way to describe — this is a tune up.
There are a handful of games on Indiana’s 2019 football schedule that qualify as “must win” if the Hoosiers are going to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2016, and Saturday’s contest tops the list.
The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Panthers are not without notable names in their program’s history. Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo and Sean Payton all played quarterback at the Charleston, Ill. school.
But none of them will be suiting up on Saturday at IU’s 2019 home opener in Bloomington, and the Hoosiers are a big favorite to win in week two.
EASTERN ILLINOIS (0-1) at INDIANA (1-0)
- Kickoff: 3:40 p.m. Eastern Time
- Location: Memorial Stadium (52,656), Bloomington, Indiana
- Television: Big Ten Network
- Series: This is the first meeting.
- Odds: Indiana is a 35.5 point favorite
- Weather at kickoff: 74 degrees, wind 5 mph.
Tom Allen is 11-15 and now in his third full season as the head coach at Indiana.
Adam Cushing was hired as the 25th head football coach at Eastern Illinois on Dec. 10, 2018. He spent the previous 15 seasons at Northwestern and served as offensive line coach from 2009-18.
TALE OF THE TAPE
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TOM ALLEN PREVIEWS THE GAME
WHEN EASTERN ILLINOIS HAS THE FOOTBALL
The Panthers are set on employing a two quarterback attack with Harry Woodbery and Johnathan Brantley both seeing action. Brantley is the better runner of the two.
Neither quarterback was particularly effective in a season opening loss at Chattanooga that saw Eastern Illinois produce just 10 points.
In week one their stats were very similar. Woodbery was 13-of-22 with 121 yards passing and one interception, Brantley was 13-of-25 with 119 yards passing and one touchdown.
The overarching issue is a lack of experience with EIU returning just two starters on offense. The scenario led to three freshmen starting on the offensive line in week one.
Indiana’s defense should be able to dominate this game, although the Hoosiers will likely rotate two and three deep early and often in this one.
Tom Allen has been preaching better tackling since the end of the Ball State game. It will be interesting to see if the Hoosiers can clean that up this week.
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
Eastern Illinois is more experienced on the defensive side of the football, returning eight of eleven starters.
The Panthers employ a 4-3 scheme and allowed 350 yards in their first game.
The secondary returned three of four starters from 2018 and the unit produced two interceptions in their week one contest. That fact, coupled with Ball State’s success stopping the run against IU and forcing two Michael Penix interceptions will likely lead EIU to employ a stack-the-box approach like the Cardinals used.
Irrespective of the tactic used by the Panthers, IU should be able to impose their will in this one.
IU will likely run early and often and it wouldn’t be surprising to see all four of Stevie Scott, Sampson James, Ronnie Walker and Cole Gest get plenty of carries.
The game will also allow redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix to get another start under his belt and continue to sharpen his game before Big Ten action begins next week.
Another theme this week has been the multiple dropped passes by IU in week one, including two that would have been touchdowns. With Indiana’s talented receiving group not getting a full fall camp with Michael Penix due to the quarterback competition, could they still be adjusting to the velocity on his passes and the spin from a lefthander?
Indiana’s pass catchers will get another chance to build familiarity with Penix on Saturday — although there could be another quarterback on the field in the second half if things get too out of hand.
The Hoosiers were mistake prone in their season opening win against Ball State. From missed tackles to dropped passes, Tom Allen and his staff likely had their team’s full attention this week. The Hoosiers know they need to play much better if they want to have a prayer against Ohio State next week.
EIU will at least have some familiarity with IU, and their head coach has had success against the Hoosiers. While Cushing was with Northwestern, the Wildcats posted a 7-1 record against Indiana.
But Eastern Illinois isn’t Northwestern.
And Romo, Garappolo and Payton aren’t running out of the tunnel.
EASTERN ILLINOIS 7
Notes: The 1979 Holiday Bowl championship team will hold its 40-year reunion this weekend. This is IU’s 60th season at Memorial Stadium.
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