Indiana wants to put its disappointing 1-2 start in the rear view mirror, but standing in its way is a tricky test in Bowling Green, Ky.
While this is a nonconference contest IU put on its schedule expecting to win, Western Kentucky is preparing for its Super Bowl, with a black-out crowd, all black uniforms and a highly anticipated game under the lights.
The Hoosiers need quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. to return to his All-Big Ten form of 2020 and lead an offense that has struggled to this point.
If that doesn’t happen, this one could get interesting as the IU defense attempts to slow the most productive passing offense in the country.
INDIANA (1-2) at WESTERN KENTUCKY (1-1)
- Kickoff: 8 p.m. Eastern
- Location: Bowling Green, Ky., Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium (23,776; FieldTurf)
- Television: CBS Sports Network — Dave Ryan (p-b-p), Aaron Murray (analyst) & Jenny Dell (sideline)
- Stream: AT&T, Fubo, Hulu, YouTube
- Radio: IU Football radio network
- Odds: Indiana is a 9 point favorite
- Weather at kickoff: 66 degrees, clear, wind 4 mph, 4% chance of precipitation.
- Series: IU leads the all-time series, 3-0, including a 38-21 victory in its lone trip to Bowling Green on Sept. 18, 2010. The teams last met on Sept. 19, 2015, a 38-35 Hoosiers win.
- The Coaches:
Tom Allen is 25-24 (.510) in his fifth season as Indiana head football coach. His 24 wins over his first four years are the most for an IU head coach during that span.
Tyson Helton is in his third season as Western Kentucky head coach. Helton has guided the Hilltoppers to back-to-back bowl games, with a win in the 2019 First Responder Bowl, and he owns a 15-12 record (.556).
TALE OF THE TAPE
THE COMPLETE BIG TEN WEEK 4 SLATE
|Villanova||12:00 P.M.||University Park, Pa.|
|Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium||TV: BTN Stats Radio: Maryland Sports Radio Network Video|
|Iowa City, IA|
|Huntington Bank Stadium||TV: ESPNU Stats Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM Video|
|Evanston, Ill.||TV: Big Ten Network Radio: WGN Radio AM-720|
|Chicago, IL||TV: FOX Stats Radio: Badger Sports Network Video|
|West Lafayette, Ind. (Conf.)||TV: BTN Stats Radio: Purdue Sports Network Video|
|Ann Arbor, Mich. (Conf.)||TV: ABC Stats Radio: WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, XM 389, Scarlet Knights App Video|
|East Lansing, MI (Conf.)||TV: FS1 Stats Radio: Spartan Media Network Video|
|Bowling Green, KY||TV: CBS Sports Network Stats Radio: IU Radio Network; Sirius 134, XM 196, SXM App 958|
WHEN WESTERN KENTUCKY HAS THE FOOTBALL
Western Kentucky wants to throw the football, utilizing a four-wide air raid offense.
WKU’s offense has passed for an FBS-leading 456.5 yards per game. Houston Baptist transfer quarterback Bailey Zappe is second in the country with 430 passing yards per game, and he has 10 touchdown passes in just two games. He’s completing 75 percent of his passes and has just two interceptions in 75 attempts.
Jerreth Sterns, another HBU transfer, has 16 receptions for 278 yards and four touchdowns. Preseason John Mackey Award watch list tight end Joshua Simon was lost for the season to injury in week one.
The running game has been another story.
WKU currently ranks 126th out of 130 teams with 75.5 yards rushing per game. They rushed for 109 yards on 25 attempts in the week one win over the Murray State, but just 42 yards on 19 carries in week two against Army. The Hilltoppers were 102nd of 127 teams to play last season in rushing yards at 126 per game.
Rushing has accounted for just 36.7 percent of WKU’s plays this fall and 14.2% of its total yardage.
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
While the offense has captured the early headlines, Western Kentucky has been known for its defense in recent years. The Hilltoppers were No. 28 in 2020 and No. 24 in 2019 in total defense.
WKU’s defense has given up 29.5 points per game in its two games to open the 2021 campaign.
With a new coordinator in place, things have gotten off to a bit of a slow start, especially against the run where WKU ranks No. 127 out of 130 teams. But those numbers might be impacted by the Hilltoppers facing two run-oriented teams to open the 2021 season.
They struggled to stop Army’s run-heavy offense its last time out. The Hilltoppers gave up 339 yards rushing to the Black Knights, after surrendering 201 to UT Martin to open the season.
Indiana offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan likes to run the ball, and he will no doubt test whether he has an advantage up front early and often. It will be interesting to see if Western Kentucky stacks the box like Cincinnati ultimately did in an effort to make Penix beat them.
Western Kentucky is expecting one of its best crowds ever on Saturday night, but there should be plenty of friendly faces who made the short drive from Indiana.
With Big Ten play up next, it is now or never for Penix and the offense to build some momentum.
With a few assists from the defense, the struggling Indiana quarterback and his offense get just the confidence boost they need.
WESTERN KENTUCKY 28
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