Indiana football is at its highest point in a long time — 2020 to be exact — after a pivotal comeback win over Big Ten opponent Illinois to open the season Sept. 2. So, what is the next task for the Hoosiers? Beating the University of Idaho by, probably, as many points as possible.
The Indiana faithful learned a good deal about the Hoosiers from the week one win. There are some important details to lay out from the aftermath, most importantly senior offensive tackle Matthew Bedford suffering a season-ending injury.
The poor performance from Indiana’s offensive line was one of the most notable negative takeaways, and losing the most experienced lineman certainly doesn’t help. Indiana head coach Tom Allen said in his Monday press conference that senior transfer Parker Hanna will be Bedford’s replacement, so the backup’s play is something to monitor this Saturday night.
Related to the offensive line, Indiana’s run game played no part in the victory — the Hoosiers rushed for an abysmal 32 yards on 26 attempts. Already down a tackle, can the offensive line take a step forward and open running lanes? Can senior running back Shaun Shivers and other rushers create plays by themselves? If there was any team on the Hoosiers’ schedule to work out the kinks against, it would be Idaho.
While Indiana’s defense was the better side of the ball Friday night, the Hoosiers still missed 23 tackles, which allowed for the Illini to break several big plays open. If Indiana wants to put Idaho away early and avoid a potential contest, wrapping up tackles and preventing big plays is how to do so.
As for Idaho, well, it’s Idaho football. The Vandals traveled to Bloomington last season week two, and the Hoosiers took care of business with a 56-14 win. However, this year brings a new Idaho team. While a loss is still a loss, the Vandals only fell to Washington State University by one touchdown in their season-opener Sept. 3, easily covering the 28.5 point spread against them.
Idaho was able to rattle off some big plays in its first game, striking through the air completions of 42, 35, 23 and 19 yards. The aforementioned missed tackles by Indiana come into play here, as the Washington State game is evidence that allowing big plays can keep any mediocre-to-bad team in the game.
The Vandals were sacked five times and threw two interceptions in their season-opener, signifying difficulties on the offensive line. Look for the Hoosiers to be aggressive defensively, likely sending pressure and hoping to create havoc.
As prominent as Indiana’s problems were from week one, the Hoosiers are not on upset watch. In fact, they should be aiming to top their 42-point margin of victory over Idaho last season. Fresh off a momentum-boosting win, which Indiana did not have heading into last season’s matchup, the Hoosiers have a winning-streak on their minds.