When: Oct. 15, 2016; 3:30pm ET
Where: Bloomington, Ind.; Memorial Stadium (52,929)
All-Time Series: Indiana leads 9-7-3
Last Meeting: Nebraska Won 69-17 (Sept. 30, 1978)
Line: Nebraska (-4)
Who knew this game would mean so much to divisional races when the first nine-game schedules were announced? Yet, here we are and the Hoosiers and Huskers get together for the first time in nearly 40 years with both programs needing a win.
Nebraska needs this to help solidify its recently found top 10 status, while the Hoosiers need this to show that tough play against good opponents can turn in to wins. After finding a way to beat Michigan State, the Hoosiers found ways to beat themselves and eventually lost this past week to Ohio State.
This is the third straight big game for the Hoosiers, so perhaps that atmosphere won’t be overwhelming at all. Meanwhile, the Huskers play a massive Big Ten on the road for the second time this year. The first time ended well, as Nebraska took the battle of the NU’s in Evanston.
If either team wants to be relevant to the Big Ten division races in November, it will need this win.
1 Burning Question: Which Richard Lagow Shows Up for Indiana
It is becoming clear that IU’s offense, and the results of this team, will only go as far as the arm of quarterback Richard Lagow will take them. He has been wildly inconsistent at times, but also highly effective as well.
The question really is which version show sup on Saturday. Is it the 5-interception throwing QB from the Wake Forest loss? Perhaps it is the 61 percent completion rate, 276-yard throwing QB that showed up in the win over Michigan State?
Or will it be the Richard Lagow that completed just 50 percent of his passes for 182 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception against Ohio State this past weekend?
Clearly there are a lot of sides to the junior college transfer, and it may depend on what the Nebraska defense throws his way. The bad news for Lagow and Co. is that Nebraska’s defense has been a tricky one for opposing teams to solve.
The Huskers give up just 17.6 points per game and haven’t given up more than 17 points to anyone not named Oregon this season. Cracking that nut is going to be tough, and it is going to rest largely on the shoulders and right arm of Lagow.
2 Key Stats:
— 6. That is the number of points Nebraska has allowed opponents to score in the 4th quarter. As we’ve talked about, solving that 17-point barrier is going to be the key challenge for Indiana. If the Hoosiers want to get a victory here, they are likely going to need points in the final quarter, as the Huskers have a 78-6 advantage in points scored during the fourth quarter. That includes a 21-0 margin in a comeback win over Illinois two weeks ago.
— 293.0. That is the number of passing yards Indiana’s offense puts up per game. It also happens to be the best passing attack in the Big Ten and the 26th-best mark in the country through the air. Combine that with Devine Redding’s impressive start to the 2016 season and IU has the most potent offense in the Big Ten. Nebraska has passed a few challenges from teams who like to air it out, holding both Illinois and Oregon to 146 yards through the air. Can they stack up to the multiple threats IU can put out there in the receiving game?
3 Key Players:
Terrell Newby, Nebraska RB: The Huskers have struggled to figure out an option that can lead this team in the backfield. Counting on quarterback Tommy Armstrong to be the all-everything option won’t work well long-term for this season and it appeared that the Huskers may have found a good rushing complement to Armstrong in Newby. He put up a season-high 140 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Illinois two weeks ago. That was on the heels of a good complementary 62-yard performance against Northwestern the week before. If the Huskers want to survive a brutal back half of the season, Newby has to be an option teams actually worry about.
Rashard Fant, Indiana CB: We’ve talked a ton about the high-powered Hoosiers passing attack, but Nebraska is no slouch in the passing game either. It may be one of the few teams that can match receiving threats with IU in the Big Ten, including names like Jordan Westerkamp, Stanley Morgan Jr. and Alonzo Moore to name a few. That means the pressure could be on a player like Fant to be at his best. The good news for Hoosiers fans is that Fant has been up to the challenge all season long really. He has nearly as many passes defensed (8) as he does tackles (9) and owns an interception on the season. Look for his play to be key to Indiana’s overall defensive effort on the day.
Nathan Gerry, Nebraska S: Secondary play is going to be huge in this contest, so we’re also going to highlight one half of perhaps the most productive safety group in the Big Ten. Gerry has been a known quantity for some time, but has really let it all hang out this season. He’s second on the team in tackles (29) and is second on the team in tackles for loss (5), all while also tied for the team lead in interceptions (2) and owning the passes defensed lead (4). You can’t ask for much more from a safety, and Gerry will need to continue making those big plays in this game if the Huskers want to slow down the Big Ten’s best passing attack.
4 Staff Predictions:
Andy: Nebraska 31-17
Dave: Nebraska 28-20
Phil H.: Indiana 31-27
Philip R-R.: Nebraska 31-24
Zach: Nebraska 35-28