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RoWINg to Indiana - Opponent Preview

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The Gopher defense could have their hands full against a Hoosier passing attack with no shortage of weapons

NCAA Football: Penn State at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The less said about the Nebraska game, the better. We’re moving on.

So how about them Hoosiers?

Were they any good last year?

Record: 5-7 (2-7, T-6th B1G East)
S&P+ Overall Ranking: 51st

Open to interpretation. Their five victories — over the likes of Virginia, Georgia Southern, Charleston Southern, Illinois, and Rutgers — were nothing to write home about. But four of losses were decided by a touchdown or less, including back-to-back games against ranked opponents.

What about this year?

Record: 4-4 (1-4, 6th B1G East)
S&P+ Overall Ranking: 65th

Honestly, I’m not quite sure what to make of this team. The Hoosiers emerged from their nonconference slate with an unblemished record, including a tight victory over Virginia that looks even better now that the Cavaliers appear to be one of the top teams in the ACC. But Indiana has lost four of their last five games since then, with losses to Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, and Penn State. Their lone conference victory came against Rutgers.

Can they score on offense?

Against Minnesota? Count on it. I don’t even need a scouting report.

The Hoosiers’ offense revolves around sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey. Ramsey, like Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez, is a dynamic athlete. He is as much as a running threat as he is a passing threat, and I have no doubt he’ll pose a problem for the Gopher defense. Unfortunately for Indiana, Ramsey has a problem of his own and that is accuracy. From throws downfield to short and intermediate passes, he has been inconsistent in getting the ball to his receivers, and has thrown eight interceptions so far this season.

Ramsey even split snaps with true freshman quarterback Michael Penix against Penn State last week, but Penix has been ruled out for the season with a torn ACL.

When Ramsey is on his game, he has an arsenal of receivers at his disposal. Seriously. The Hoosiers boast seven receivers with at least 20 receptions, six receivers with at least 200 receiving yards, and eight receivers with at least one touchdown. This is obviously a very bad matchup for a Minnesota defense that, according to head coach P.J. Fleck, has hesitated to switch to nickel and dime packages this season due to a lack of experienced players in the secondary.

On the ground, Ramsey is the Hoosiers’ second leading rusher, bested only by true freshman running back Stevie Scott. Scott is a strong and physical back who showed he can be the workhorse on offense against Virginia, rushing for 204 yards on 31 carries. He isn’t the most explosive back, but he is young, talented, and getting better every week.

Please tell me the Gophers will be able to score

The Hoosiers came into the season needing to replace eight defensive starters, and seemed to have patched the holes through the first three games of the season.

Then everything came apart in conference play. Sound familiar?

Indiana has not been terrible against the run — allowing 159.8 rushing yards per game is not, but they’ve come nowhere close to the disastrous levels of Minnesota. But their biggest area of concern has been in defending the pass. Prior to the Penn State game, the Hoosiers had allowed 15 passing touchdowns in the span of four games. That’s not good. Even with Jonathan Crawford, one of their best defensive players, at safety, Indiana has struggled when matched up against a formidable receiving corps, specifically in man-to-man coverage.

The problem starts up front and it has had a domino effect from there. The Hoosiers operate out of a base 4-2-5 defense, but their four-man front has struggled to generate a pass rush in conference play. Their 4.7 percent sack rate, according to S&P+, ranks 100th in the country, and they’ve been even worse on passing downs (4.3 percent). To compensate, Indiana has had to dial up blitzes to bring pressure, but even that has failed. The Hoosiers are 96th in blitz down success rate (31.7 percent) and 103rd in blitz down sack rate (6.4 percent).

If Indiana continues to rely on sending extra defenders, Minnesota can take advantage with a quick dropback and then completing short and intermediate passes, which is something that Tanner Morgan, if he is indeed the starter on Friday, has excelled at.

But who will score more points on Saturday?

The Gophers’ defense is allowing an average of 43 points per game against Big Ten opponents through their first four games of conference play. Until they prove capable of stopping a Big Ten offense, I don’t foresee Minnesota winning another game this season, with maybe the exception of Illinois. The Gophers’ best chance of winning a shootout was against Nebraska’s awful defense, and we all saw how that went. I certainly don’t think their chances are better against the Hoosiers on Friday. Indiana 38, Minnesota 21.