Thanks to Ben Raphel of The Crimson Quarry, the network's Indiana website, for taking the time to write back and forth about Saturday's game. I answered some questions for him, too, which you can view here. Let's get to it:
TT: From afar, Indiana football has admittedly been a punchline for a long time. Now it seems the Hoosiers are on an upward path, at least, with improving records over the past few years. What's your feeling on head coach Kevin Wilson and his program?
Ben: Before last Saturday's win, I would have likely told you that Wilson still needed a signature close win or come-from-behind victory on his resume, since his record in those types of games was worrisome. Well, last Saturday, he got that victory. Obviously it's too early to tell if the Mizzou game is a fluke or a steppingstone for this team, but IU football has improved its win total under Wilson every season, and the defense may even be turning a corner. So right now, I'm feeling pretty optimistic about the status of IU football under Kevin Wilson. Obviously I would've given you a different answer last week after the Bowling Green loss, but on the whole, his job status isn't as much up for debate as other coaches (*cough* Tom Crean *cough*) at IU.
TT: Running back Tevin Coleman jumps off the stat sheet as a rather gigantic threat for Maryland. The Terps gave up 300 rushing yards against Syracuse, and Coleman leads the Big Ten in rushing by almost 90 yards per game. He's averaging a cartoonish 9 yards per attempt. Is there any reason Coleman won't completely gash Maryland on Saturday?
Ben: Ha, I sure hope that wasn't a reverse jinx. Coleman has been the lynchpin of the offense this season, and if the B1G weren't full of other great running backs (i.e. Abdullah, Gordon, and Langford), I think he'd be getting more national recognition. My concern for Saturday's game is if he is still feeling any lingering effects from an apparent knee injury he suffered in the first quarter against Mizzou; however, he did return later in that game to break loose a huge run that set up the game-winning TD for the Hoosiers. If Coleman struggles, the Hoosiers also have D'Angelo Roberts and Devine Redding as backfield threats.
TT: Coleman's the big name offensively, but what do you make of quarterback Nate Sudfeld? How do you expect him to perform against Maryland?
Ben: Last year, Sudfeld split time with Tre Roberson, who was a more mobile, dual-threat QB. But Roberson transferred over the summer, so Sudfeld is the guy here now. He showed a few nerves in the opening game of the season, but has calmed down since then and kept the offense humming. While his stats aren't overwhelming, he is consistent and gets the job done. If our run game gets going and our offensive line does a good job protecting Sudfeld in the pocket, then I expect he'll have a good day against the Terps.
TT: The Missouri defense had 11 tackles for loss against Missouri. Maryland's offensive line has had some problems this year, so I'll ask you something I've been asking a decent amount: Do you expect the Hoosiers to put much pressure on C.J. Brown?
Ben: It seemed like IU's D-line recognized the offensive line woes that Mizzou was having last Saturday, and was able to keep the pressure on Mizzou QB Maty Mauk, especially during the second half. Otherwise, however, the Hoosiers have been having trouble getting pressure on the QB this season though, so we'll see if their performance against the Tigers was an anomaly, or if they'll keep it up this weekend.
TT: On the other side of the defensive coin, the Hoosiers did allow 500 yards of offense to Missouri. What's your assessment of that unit as a whole, and what can the Terps expect to see system-wise?
Ben: Under new DC Brian Knorr, Indiana has transitioned to a 3-4 defense, and this type of defensive transition is never the smoothest. I still saw a few instances of blown coverages during last week's game, and the defense ran out of gas against Bowling Green after being on the field for 113 (!) plays. However, I've noticed marked improvements on the whole this year already. We already have better form on our tackles, and we've come up big in third-down situations where we wouldn't have last year. If we cut down on allowing long and sustained drives, along with costly penalties, then hopefully the yardage numbers that we give up will in turn go down.
The Terps should be familiar with Knorr though, and vice versa, since he came over from Wake Forest this season. Last year, the Demon Deacons stifled the Terps, 34-10, and while I don't expect Knorr's crew to hold Maryland to 10 points again this season, he'll at least know what to expect from your offense.
TT: Maryland's special teams have been a huge asset this year, with a handful of blocked kicks, big returns and a perfect field goal line from kicker Brad Craddock. How do the Hoosiers stack up in that phase?
Ben: I caught some parts of Maryland's wild game against WVU two weekends ago, and was very impressed with what the Terps were doing on special teams. I wouldn't say the Hoosiers have been an unmitigated disaster on special teams this season, because their coverage on returns has been pretty decent; however, we lost kicker Mitch Ewald to graduation, and our new kicker, Aaron Del Grosso, just made his first field goal of the season last weekend. Punter Erich Toth had a nice game at Mizzou, but he has also shown inconsistencies. So it's definitely a concern, especially in a game where field position will matter when these two high-powered offenses will face off.
TT: Last, fill in these blanks: ___________ will win by a score of ____________ because _____________ will do _______________.
Ben: Indiana will win by a score of 42-35 because Tevin Coleman is an unstoppable force of nature, and will do amazing things in the backfield that the Terps' run defense will be unable to overcome, despite a great day from Stefon Diggs and the Maryland offense.