As they showed in the season opener, a 28-10 victory over Indiana State which saw them rush for 455 yards, the Hoosiers can ground and pound. But for their offense to be the force many expect, they'll also have to fly the friendly skies.
With a week off to fine-tune a passing game that barely got off the tarmac, Indiana will look to demonstrate a more balanced offense Saturday when it becomes the first Big Ten team since 2008 to play at Bowling Green.
Coach Kevin Wilson said his team must work effectively during practice this week to become a better passing team. And in his mind, working effectively doesn't always mean working more.
"We talk about trying to stay fresh so we've got to run our routes as fast as we can," Wilson said. "We've got to do a lot of it to get good at it, but if you do too much, you get tired and dead-legged and you get slow."
Quarterback Nate Sudfeld tried just four passes in the first half against Indiana State, which was really conscious of taking that part of the offense away, and threw only 18 on the day. It wasn't the scenario many felt would happen, and denied a new receiving corps some opportunities for on-the-job learning.
Bowling Green's defense should be the foil this offense is seeking. The Falcons are allowing 445 passing yards per game so far and more than 68 percent completions. In short, if the Hoosiers execute and don't make a bunch of mistakes, they should score a ton of points.
Indiana's defense will get a stiff test from BG's offense, which will spread the field and throw lots of short passes, then mix in enough runs to keep you off-balance. It will be a better gauge of just how much improvement the Hoosiers have made on this side of the ball.
"Their attack is very, very sound, very aggressive, and has the ability to go fast," Wilson said. "It'll be a much different outing for our defense, and (I'm) looking forward to see how they rise to the occasion this week."
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--QB Nate Sudfeld will look to improve on some pretty modest numbers in the season opener, when he completed only 11 of 18 passes for 111 yards against Indiana State. Sudfeld threw just four times in the first half as the Sycamores made it clear that the Hoosiers would have to run the ball. It wouldn't be shocking if he enjoyed a big day against Bowling Green, which has allowed 76 of 111 completions so far for 890 yards, and figures to be paying attention to Indiana's running game.
--RB Tevin Coleman is coming off a Memorial Stadium-record 247-yard day against Indiana State, and could threaten 200 yards again this week running behind an offensive line with 135 career starts. Coleman has the speed to break a big run on any play and the experience to know how to set up blocks. While the Falcons have been good against the run so far, allowing just 118 yards per game and 3.1 yards per rush, they haven't seen anyone like Coleman yet.
--DE Bobby Richardson is coming off a three-sack game in the season opener, showing a sign that he might be the pass rusher this defense has needed. While sack opportunities might not show up as easily against an offense which rarely drops back more than three steps on pass plays, Richardson can still affect the texture of this game. Even a sack or a well-timed QB hurry could make a difference and lead to a game-changing big play.
SERIES HISTORY: Indiana won the teams' first all-time meeting last year, trouncing Bowling Green, 42-10. It is 37-8-1 all-time against Mid-American Conference teams.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "To me, when you say winning habits, it's not practice. There's winning habits in your sleep and what you're eating through the week that helps you become a winner." -- Coach Kevin Wilson on emphasizing off-field discipline to his team.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scouting the running game: After rushing for 455 yards in the season opener, the Hoosiers face a better test against a Bowling Green squad which is allowing only 118 yards per game. Tevin Coleman and D'Angelo Roberts combined for 376 yards against Indiana State, averaging exactly eight yards per carry.
Scouting the passing game: QB Nate Sudfeld has to be licking his chops when he sees the Falcons' secondary, which has already allowed 890 yards in two games. WR Shane Wynn could have a huge game, especially if Bowling Green decides its first priority on defense is to work an extra defender into the tackle box so it can stop the running game.
Scouting the run defense: The season opener was promising as Indiana gave up only 30 yards on the ground, although that figure was skewed a bit by five sacks. The Falcons have a good 1-2 punch of their own in Travis Green and Freddie Coppet, an IU recruiting target who spurned the bigger school for a MAC program.
Scouting the pass defense: Bowling Green will be tough to shut down because it throws a lot of short passes, rarely dropping back more than three steps. That will put a premium on tackling in the secondary. Miss tackles against these guys and they'll turn a three or four-yard pass into a 50-yard gain.
Scouting the special teams: Indiana has to be cognizant of Ryan Burbrink, who has a 75-yard punt return score already this season. Both teams have punters who worry more about placement and pinning opponents deep in their territory than they do distance. The teams are a combined 1-of-4 on field goals so far.
DRAFT PROSPECTS (includes 2015 NFLDraftScout.com rating as applicable):
--LS Matt Dooley (No. 2 long snapper, 376th overall) -- The senior will make his 38th straight start Saturday at Bowling Green. Dooley didn't make a tackle in the season opener against Indiana State, but handled seven long snaps (two punts, four PATs and a field goal) without incident.
--CB Tim Bennett (No. 53 cornerback, 500th overall) -- There wasn't much work for Bennett in the season opener, as he started but didn't record a single stat. Bennett led the nation last year with 20 pass breakups, but Indiana State's passing attack wasn't much and they didn't take many chances with his side of the field.
--WR Shane Wynn (No. 65 wide receiver, 525th overall) -- With the running game dominating the offense in the season opener, Wynn didn't have many opportunities, making just two catches for eight yards. It would be a big surprise if he didn't produce more against Bowling Green's horrible pass defense.
--Freshman QB Zander Diamont is likely going to redshirt, according to coach Kevin Wilson, unless he's absolutely needed to play. Diamont is listed third on the depth chart behind Sudfeld and backup Nate Boudreau, but converted LB Chris Covington took snaps at the end of the Indiana State game instead of Diamont or Boudreau.
--Freshman WR Simmie Cobbs has forced his way into regular playing time as the backup to Nate Stoner. In the season opener, Cobbs caught three passes for 57 yards, including a 34-yarder that saw the 6-foot-4 Cobbs simply snatch the ball over a smaller defender.
--Freshman WR J-Shun Harris II also got plenty of action against Indiana State on Aug. 30, catching a couple of passes for 12 yards and rushing once for no game. Harris also returned two punts for 18 yards and a kickoff for 25 yards.