A chance to clinch bowl eligibility in the eighth game of the season?
It has been decades since an Indiana football team had that kind of opportunity in front of them.
The last time IU reached six or more wins in their first eight games was 1993. Reaching that mark on Saturday will require another accomplishment that has eluded the Hoosiers since 1993 — a third straight Big Ten win.
The task won’t be easy.
While Nebraska has had its share of struggles this year, the Huskers will have more than 85,000 friends on hand to give them a boost.
INDIANA (5-2, 2-2) at NEBRASKA (4-3, 2-2)
- Kickoff: 3:30 Eastern Time
- Location: Memorial Stadium (85,458), Lincoln, Neb.
- Television: BTN
- Series: IU leads the series 9-8-3.
- Odds: Nebraska is a 2 point favorite
- Weather at kickoff: 61 degrees, wind 11 mph, 0% chance of precipitation.
Tom Allen is 15-17 and now in his third full season as the head coach at Indiana.
Scott Frost is a former Cornhusker player and the head coach at Nebraska. He is 8-11 in his second year as the Nebraska head coach. Frost guided Central Florida to a 19-7 record from 2016-17, including a perfect 13-0 mark in his final season.
TALE OF THE TAPE
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BTN GAME PREVIEW
WHEN NEBRASKA HAS THE FOOTBALL
The biggest question for the Nebraska offense is whether starting quarterback Adrian Martinez will be available to play. He missed their last game two weeks ago with a knee injury.
Martinez hasn’t been as sharp as the Husker faithful had hoped this year, but there is a clear drop-off when he isn’t available. A true dual-threat, Martinez has accounted for nearly 1,600 total yards and 10 touchdowns in the six games that he has played.
If Martinez cannot go the Huskers will likely turn to unproven sophomore Noah Vedral, who has completed just 57.6% of his passes with no touchdowns or interceptions in 33 attempts. While Vedral is mobile, he is not nearly as dynamic of a runner as Martinez.
The Huskers strength has been their running game, although Martinez is the team’s second leading rusher with 341 yards.
Nebraska is averaging nearly 190 yards rushing per game, good for 40th in the nation. IU’s run defense is a respectable 39th, giving up 128 yards per game.
Leading the way for the Huskers on the ground is junior Dedrick Mills with 350 yards and 4.6 yards per carry. Mills has not been over 67 yards in a game in Nebraska’s last four contests and Nebraska’s run blocking has been erratic.
The Huskers took a big hit in the running game when Frost broke the news that Mo Washington was no longer with the team. Washington is a versatile, big play back in both the running and passing games. The Husker offense has been virtually non-existent in their last three games, and that coincides with three very quiet games from Washington.
Another big name to watch for in the pregame is Nebraska receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. The freshman is the Huskers’ second leading receiver and fourth leading rusher. He is probable for the game and with Washington out, Nebraska will go out of their way to get Robinson the football.
At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Husker receiver JD Spielman brings Whop Philyor to mind, and his production has been similar. Spielman leads Nebraska with 24 catches for 469 yards. The big play receiver averages nearly 20 yards per catch.
Indiana’s No. 9 in the country pass defense is somewhat deceiving. IU has played in several blowouts this year which caused the opposition to turn to the running game. If Martinez is available and plays to his potential he should prove to be a major test for the Hoosiers.
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
Like Nebraska, it is not clear who will start at quarterback for Indiana.
Unlike the Huskers, IU has an experienced backup in Peyton Ramsey who filled in for starter Michael Penix last week and led the Hoosiers to victory on the road.
While Indiana is comfortable with Ramsey, Penix’s arm strength is a difference maker. The redshirt freshman can make every throw, is accurate, and requires the defense to honor more areas of the field.
Perhaps no stat highlights the difference between the two quarterbacks than the number of times that they have been sacked. When Ramsey is in the game, defenses have been less concerned about big plays downfield and have been putting more pressure on the quarterback. Ramsey has been sacked seven times, to just one with Penix in the game.
Irrespective of the quarterback, IU has a dynamic group of veteran wide receivers. Never was that more clear than last week against Maryland. When the Terrapins double teamed Philyor, that opened the door for big games from Donavan Hale, Nick Westbrook and Ty Fryfogle.
While Philyor leads the way with 559 yards, all four receivers are over 247 yards on the season, and tight end Peyton Hendershot is the second leading pass catcher with 27 catches, 351 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Despite injuries to veterans on the offensive line, IU’s ground game is finally starting to gain traction.
Sophomore running back Stevie Scott has 272 yards over the last two weeks on more than nine yards per carry.
The Huskers haven’t been particularly strong against the run or pass, but the numbers suggest that Nebraska is more vulnerable against the run. If Penix plays that should keep the Huskers more honest when the Hoosiers look to attack with the ground game and exploit that potential weakness.
With the major unknowns at quarterback for both teams, predicting this game requires assumptions.
Based on the fact that both Penix and Martinez practiced this week, we think that they will both play. With that being the case, these teams appear to be fairly evenly matched.
A score from a defense or special teams unit might be the difference in this one.
Bowl eligibility will have to wait another week.
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