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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 29, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ryan Field (47,130) -- Evanston, Illinois. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Indiana 1-1, Northwestern 3-0. Away Record: Indiana 1-0, Northwestern 1-0. Neutral Record: Indiana 0-0, Northwestern 0-0. Conference Record: Indiana 0-0, Northwestern 0-0. Series Record: Northwestern leads, 45-34-1.
GAME NOTES: The Northwestern Wildcats attempt to remain perfect on the season as they entertain the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams.
Indiana opened the season at 2-0 before dropping a 41-39 heartbreaker at home to Ball State on Sept. 15. The Hoosiers overcame a 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit to take a 39-38 lead in the final minute of regulation, only to lose on a 42-yard field goal as time expired. They have now lost 12 of their last 13 games against FBS opponents, with their only win during that stretch coming against FBS newcomer Massachusetts on Sept. 8 (45-6).
Northwestern's season could not have gotten off to a better start, as it is 4-0 following posting wins at Syracuse (42-41), and at home versus Vanderbilt (23-13), Boston College (22-13) and South Dakota State (38-7). The Wildcats have won five of their last six home games dating back to last season, and they will try to move to 5-0 for the third time in the last five seasons with a win this week.
The Wildcats own a 45-34-1 advantage in the all-time series with Indiana, which includes 28 wins in Evanston. Northwestern won big on the road in last year's matchup, 59-38.
Creating offense has not been an issue for Indiana this year, as it has put up 36 ppg and ranks 10th in the nation in total offense (538.3 ypg). The unit has scored on all 12 of its trips to the red zone, including 10 touchdowns.
The Hoosiers' offensive success is even more impressive considering the lack of continuity the quarterback position. Tre Roberson (33-of-50, 368 yards, two TDs) started the first two games before Cameron Coffman (40-of-57, 410 yards, three TDs) started against Ball State. Nate Sudfeld (16-of-24, 200 yards, two TDs) has also seen plenty of meaningful snaps.
The running game has been electric, averaging more than 200 yards per game. Stephen Houston (164 yards, three TDs) is the team's leading rusher and one of four players with more than 100 yards on the ground.
Shane Wynn is not only Indiana's primary kick returner, but he also leads the receiving corps with 15 catches for 145 yards and three scores. Cody Latimer has been the top target down the field, racking up 223 yards on 14 catches with a pair of scores.
The IU defense has tightened up in the early going. After allowing eight teams to score more than 30 points last season (five with 40 or more), the Hoosiers are giving up just 21.3 ppg.
The unit can get after the quarterback with eight sacks, led by a pair from Larry Black, but it has forced just two turnovers -- an interception by Brian Williams and a fumble recovery by Drew Hardin.
On paper, the Northwestern offense has been solid (31.2 ppg, 407.2 ypg) and quite efficient in converting 53 percent of its third-down chances (13th in the nation), while scoring on 16-of-18 trips to the red zone.
The Wildcats also have a committee at the quarterback position, with Kain Colter (44-of-65) and Trevor Siemian (36-of-52) nearly splitting the snaps in half. Both have been effective, combining for more than 700 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Colter brings an extra element to the mix with his running ability, as he has rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Demetrius Fields has been the preferred target of both signal-callers, hauling in a team-high 21 balls for 178 yards and a score. Tony Jones (161 yards), Christian Jones (107 yards) and Rashad Lawrence (102 yards) are also involved in the passing game.
Venric Mark has been as steady as they come as the team's workhorse back, carrying the ball 72 times for 399 yards and four touchdowns. He has yet to have a game this season with fewer than 77 yards.
The Northwestern defense has been somewhat vulnerable through the air, allowing 294.8 passing yards per game, but it has made up for with a stout run defense that ranks 11th in the nation (72.8 ypg).
Chi Chi Ariguzo has been one of the best all-around defensive players in the Big Ten thus far, tallying 32 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and two fumble recoveries. Tyler Scott has half of the team's six sacks, which is already more than he put up in his first two seasons combined.
Entering this game, it appears that Northwestern is in midseason form with impressive wins over quality FBS schools. Few people expected Indiana to be 2-1 at this point, but its competition has been far from stellar, and playing against a tough defense for the first time could cause the Hoosiers some trouble. Playing at home, the Wildcats should have little trouble moving to 5-0.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northwestern 45, Indiana 20
09/26 10:33:44 ET
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