A lot is at stake come Saturday afternoon.
Not only could it represent Indiana’s sixth win in October, their first time to potentially accomplish such a feat since the 1993 season, but it’s also a chance for Indiana to prove their hot start is not a fluke.
Sitting at 5-2 on the season, a team that was trying to count six wins at the beginning of the year may be thinking just a little bit bigger now.
All that’s standing in their way is a road match-up with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The Huskers came into the season with high expectations, with many expecting Nebraska to be one of the main competitors for the Big Ten West crown. Yet fast forward just a few months and those ambitions seem absurd now.
The Huskers have struggled their way through the season, compiling a record of just 4-3, including a 34-7 beatdown at the hands of the Minnesota Golden Gophers their last time out.
Nebraska’s star quarterback, Adrian Martinez, once thought of as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate has instead struggled to keep his head above water for much of this season. There’s no denying the athleticism of Martinez, but his passing ability remains a major question mark.
Yet not all the blame for Nebraska’s struggles can be pinned on the shoulders of Martinez, and the Huskers offensive line deserves their fair share of blame as well.
The front five for Nebraska have been a problem throughout the season, ranking just 8th in the Big Ten in pass protection and 12th in run blocking according to Pro Football Focus.
Defensively the Huskers have had their struggles as well, especially amongst the front seven. According to Pro Football Focus, the Huskers rank dead last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, and their performance against the Gophers makes that stat hard to argue against.
The Gophers ran wild over a porous Nebraska run defense, racking up a stunning 322 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground on 49 carries, compared to only 13 passing attempts. Indiana’s ground attack has come alive in recent weeks with sophomore running back Stevie Scott topping 100 yards in each of his last two games, and the prospect of facing a poor Huskers run defense should have the Hoosiers front five licking their chops.
The health of Indiana freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will be a major question mark heading into this one, as the talented signal caller is listed as questionable with an undisclosed injury. If Penix can’t go, Indiana will turn to Peyton Ramsey, who did his part in relief of Penix last week to help guide Indiana to a victory, passing for 193 yards and a score.
Tom Allen has long preached about the importance of a breakthrough win; a signature victory they can hang their hat on. Nebraska’s struggles may not make them into what many would call a breakthrough victory but a victory here would do far more for Indiana than give them a signature win.
It would put them on the cusp of a breakthrough season.