My how things have changed since we last previewed a game to be played in Bloomington.
Three weeks ago, Indiana was coming off a tough road loss to Michigan State, and “here we go again” was the prevailing wisdom.
Now, with a November chill in the air, here we go again has become something that hadn’t been seen in more than 25 years. Indiana is bowl eligible just eight games into the season while riding a three game conference winning streak.
Suddenly, anything feels possible, but no one can be taken lightly.
The Hoosiers and Wildcats meet under the lights for the first ever November night game at Memorial Stadium.
NORTHWESTERN (1-6, 0-5) at INDIANA (6-2, 3-2)
- Kickoff: 7 p.m. EST
- Location: Memorial Stadium (52,656), Bloomington, Indiana
- Television: FS1
- Series: Northwestern leads the series 47-34-1.
- Odds: Indiana is a 10 point favorite
- Weather at kickoff: 39 degrees, wind 9 mph, 5% chance of precipitation.
Tom Allen is 16-17 and now in his third full season as the head coach at Indiana.
Pat Fitzgerald owns a 97-76 (.561) record is in his 14th season as Northwestern head coach. Fitzgerald led the Wildcats to the 2018 Big Ten West Division title. The 2008 College Football Hall of Fame inductee starred at linebacker for NU (1993-96).
- Allen and Fitzgerald have mutual respect
- Allen with final thoughts on Northwestern
- Possible bowl destinations for Indiana
TALE OF THE TAPE
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BTN GAME PREVIEW
WHEN NORTHWESTERN HAS THE FOOTBALL
Another week, and another opponent that has a quarterback situation unfolding.
It appears that starting quarterback Hunter Johnson will return on Saturday night for the Wildcats after taking time away from the team as his mother battles cancer.
With backup TJ Green out for the season, third stringer Aidan Smith has struggled mightily, completing just 47.8 percent of his passes while throwing six interceptions to one touchdown.
While Johnson is relatively inexperienced, the Brownsburg, Indiana product was a five-star recruit that has serious arm talent. While Johnson has struggled himself (43-of-89, 367 yards, 4 interceptions, 1 touchdown), he should at least give the Wildcat passing attack the opportunity to pose a legitimate threat.
Northwestern has four different receivers with at least 10 catches and 100 yards for the season, but no one has more than 156 yards. Junior Riley Lees leads the way with 23 catches.
Statistically speaking, Northwestern has one of, if not the worst passing attacks in the country, but as mentioned, Johnson should make them better.
Indiana, on the other hand, has a statistically strong pass defense, but a combination of several blowout games and mostly unimpressive group of opposing quarterbacks have inflated those numbers. If Johnson plays and is accurate, the Wildcat passing attack can pose a threat.
Freshman running back Drake Anderson leads the Northwestern ground game with 436 yards, three touchdowns and 4.7 yards per carry.
If Johnson can open things up vertically it should open things up for the Wildcat running game which has been the strength of their offense thus far.
IU has been respectable against the run with a defensive line group that has improved over the course of the season.
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
It will be strength against strength when the Hoosiers have the football.
IU has reached 30 points seven times in its first eight games, a program record. Despite their poor won/loss record, Northwestern has only allowed two of their seven opponents to surpass the 30 point mark.
Unlike Northwestern, Indiana is having no such struggles at the quarterback position, and it hasn’t mattered who is taking the snaps for the Hoosiers.
Once again on Saturday it is unknown whether Michael Penix or Peyton Ramsey will get the start as Penix deals with an undisclosed injury. Collectively, the duo has combined to give IU the statistically best passing offense in the Big Ten.
Northwestern is only allowing 180 passing yards per contest, good for No. 15 in the country, while IU has averaged 312 per game, good for No. 11. Something has to give on Saturday night.
Indiana has six different receivers that have accumulated more yards than Northwestern’s top receiver. Whop Philyor is having a monster season with 57 catches for 737 yards and 3 touchdowns. Four different IU receivers have at least 3 touchdown receptions.
Sophomore Stevie Scott is the clear leader of the Indiana run game with 122 carries for 621 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and 7 touchdowns. Despite injuries on the offensive line, Scott has gotten stronger as the season has progressed. The New York product has averaged more than 100 yards per game over his last five.
Northwestern hasn’t been nearly as stout against the run, but they have been respectable against just about everyone save for future NFL backs Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins.
The bottom line — the yards will be tough to come by on a cold night as IU faces the best defense it has seen since Michigan State.
With quarterback questions seemingly every week, this prediction business has been no picnic.
One thing that seems clear — Northwestern is better than their record. And this Wildcat team isn’t going to quit on Pat Fitzgerald.
With a boost from Hunter Johnson the Wildcat offense should be better than it has looked in recent weeks, and their defense is good enough to slow down IU a bit.
This one is going to be more difficult than many expect, but in the end the Hoosiers get win number seven and the potential bowl destinations become more attractive.
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