The Indiana Hoosiers play Northwestern Saturday in Evanston, Ill. For the first time in many years, an IU football game in November will have significant meaning. Check out this interesting story that marries the importance of the game with the heartache both teams have shouldered.
A lot is on the line for both teams. The Hoosiers (6-4) became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 last weekend. They beat Ball State 38-20 in Bloomington to guarantee at least a .500 record. In '94, the team beat Purdue on the last week of the season to finish 6-5, but received no bowl bid. A win against the Wildcats would guarantee a 7-5 record, which puts them in much better position for that 13th game.
The Wildcats also are looking to get bowl eligible. At 5-5, the team needs to win their last two games to get to 7-5. Ten of the 11 Big Ten teams are .500 or better, meaning they all have a chance to become bowl eligible. The Big Ten has only seven bowl tie-ins and once those are gone, it is probably just dumb luck if a Big Ten team gets a bid.
This is the week for the Hoosiers to get win seven. I wouldn't want to go into the Bucket game with the additional pressure of needing a win to get a bowl bid. Northwestern is coming off two loses in a row, at Purdue and against Iowa. They beat Michigan State by two in East Lansing and Minnesota by one at home.
Northwestern has given up more points than it has scored overall this season. They score about 26 points per game and give up slightly more than 30. If the Hoosiers can get the offense going, especially early, they should have a good chance of winning, even though the game is on the road. IU averages more than 32 points per game and has given up about 27 a game.
Once again the key will be turnovers. Against Ball State IU started slow and got behind quickly because of two turnovers, including an interception on the first play of the game.
The IU defense has been playing well lately. They shut down Ball State after the early turnovers, only giving up 10 points in the first quarter while the IU offense got into rhythm. Then in the second quarter, the defense shut out the Cardinals, while the Hoosiers scored 21 points and took control.
In their six wins, the Hoosiers are giving up less than 20 points a game and scoring more than 41. However, in their four loses, the average is reversed -- the Hoosiers give up 37 points per game and score only less than 19. Minimal mistakes from Kellen Lewis and James Hardy and some quality defense should go a long way to get IU win number seven. That would be the most since 1993, when the team was 8-3 and lost in the Independence Bowl.