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Must Win Game #1: The CORN NATION Q&A With Indiana

A season that began with predictions of an East Division title has devolved into a battle for bowl eligibility. Indiana is suddenly a legitimate problem - what do we know about them?

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Nebraska at Indiana

September 1 seems so very far away, doesn’t it?

You remember September 1. We were considered a legitimate threat to win our division. Adrian Martinez was being seriously mentioned as a Heisman candidate. Our defensive line was going to be a force. Amazing gains were being reported from the weight room. The offensive line was a little inexperienced, but we’d work around that. Maurice Washington and Wan’Dale Robinson were going to be flash to Dedrick Mills thunder. Basically, the Huskers were ready to take flight in Year 2.

The first game looked shaky but we were just looking ahead to Colorado. 17-0 at halftime and we were on our way. Then...woof. A 2nd half collapse. Following a thumping of Northern Illinois, there was a late escape against Illinois. Then Ohio St came to Lincoln and the Huskers were sonned yet again by the Buckeyes in front of their home crowd. Squeak by Northwestern. Have our ass handed to us by Minnesota.

Martinez injured. Robinson injured. Washington either gone for several games or gone for good. Shotgun snaps resemble Der Weiner Schlinger at times. Pickering injured and, sweet Jeebus, don’t get me started on the kicking game.

In any case, things are starting to trend south and we know how that turned out in the Mike Riley era. The Huskers were able to turn things around after an 0-6 start last season. Do they fire up the heart engines for another 2nd half charge?

So we head for Saturday October 26 needing to finish out at 2-3 to go bowling again. The opponent is the Indiana Hoosiers, a quick check in the win column two months ago but at 5-2 suddenly looking like a big, damned roadblock. To educate us on all things Indiana, Auston Matricardi of The Crimson Quarry was kind enough to answer some questions posed by the Corn Nation staff - thanks Auston!:

So, what do you think of the Fred Hoiberg hire and are you looking forward to basketball too?

I think that Hoiberg has had plenty of success in college ball and it appears to be a good move for both him and Nebraska. This season of IU football has been pretty fun and I’m expecting this season of IU basketball to be as miserable as the last two or three, so I’d move that we extend football season as long as possible.

We haven’t played Indiana much since we joined the Big Ten. Who are 2 or 3 players we should watch on both sides of the ball?

On offense you’re going to want to watch Michael Penix Jr. if he plays. He’s easily the best quarterback talent IU has had since Nate Sudfeld. Whop Philyor is IU’s best receiver. He’s at his best and utilized most as a yards-after-catch guy in the slot on short and intermediate routes. His ability to turn a bubble screen into a 20-yard pickup is a big part of the IU offense. IU’s main ballcarrier is Stevie Scott III. He’s a bigger back who’s struggled a bit this season but he’s starting to round into form over the last few weeks.

On defense the Hoosiers are led by Reakwon Jones at the linebacker position. In the secondary IU has some pretty solid young players, namely Tiawan Mullen and Juwan Burgess.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 Indiana at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Do you have an extra kicker we can borrow for three or four hours on Saturday?

There might be one stashed around Bloomington somewhere, not sure if Tom Allen would be willing to share though.

Both our teams have similar schedules. Indiana has won five games, but has beaten no one of substance. Nebraska screwed up and lost to a mediocre Colorado team in OT, then beat a scrappy (consider that an insult, NW fans!) Northwestern team with a last second field goal. What have you learned about your Hoosier squad and do you think they’ll win on Saturday?

I’ve learned that this Indiana team can take care of the teams that they’re supposed to. That being said if they’re at full health SP+ says that Nebraska is a team that Indiana is supposed to take care of so I fully expect the Hoosiers to win, which isn’t something I would’ve said preseason so here we are.

This is Tom Allen’s 4th season coaching Indiana and many Husker fans have still never heard of him. What can you tell us about him and where does he stand with Indiana fans?

He’s an Indiana guy through and through. He’s defensive-minded and has built a strong family-like culture in IU’s program. He’s also done an historically good job of recruiting for an IU head coach. Right now I think there might be some fans who aren’t necessarily happy with him at this point. Despite that I think the majority of fans will get over the lack of a bowl appearances so far if Allen continues to build up the program moving forward as it appears he’s been doing.

Rutgers v Indiana Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Indiana is coming to Lincoln as a 2 ½ point favorite - how do you think this game ends up?

Well the line has been all over the place ranging anywhere from IU -2.5 to Nebraska -2.5 depending on the book and that almost certainly has a lot to do with the uncertainty for each team at quarterback. I think that Vegas is right to be uncertain about this one for that reason. All I’ll say is that if both Martinez and Penix are fully healthy I’d expect the Hoosiers to take the win by a score. If either team gets its starter back and the other doesn’t things should obviously shift in its direction.

Nebraska v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images