Three weeks into the 2013 college football season, the identity of the Indiana University football team is still unknown. Heading into a Saturday night special with Southeastern Conference foe Missouri at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, the 2-1 Hoosiers are difficult to figure.
Are they a high-scoring, high-flying offense with multiple offensive weapons and a strong-armed triggerman in sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld, or a leaky defensive unit that gives up big plays on a regular basis?
IU will have their hands full against a 2-0 Missouri team that has had a week off to prepare. The Tigers opened the season with a pair of convincing home wins over Murray State and Toledo. Missouri boasts an athletic squad with playmakers on both sides of the ball, and is easily the best team the Hoosiers have faced yet this season.
Offensively, Missouri senior QB James Franklin appears to in top form after an injury-proned junior campaign. Franklin, 6-2, 230, is a dual threat with the ability to throw deep or make plays with his feet. He threw for 318 yards in the Tigers opener, and led the team in rushing (77 yards) in last week's victory over Toledo. He is a candidate for both the Unitas and O'Brien Awards, as well as on the watch list for the Senior Bowl.
When Franklin goes to the air, IU will have to defend sophomore WR Dorial Green-Beckham, a former number one national recruit in many publications. Green-Beckham posted his career best in receiving yardage in the opening game of the season, and was named to the preseason All-SEC third team.
Franklin can hand the ball off to a pair of rushers, either junior TB Henry Josey or sophomore Russell Hansbrough. Josey serves as the primary ball carrier, and is an inspirational story. After running for over 1200 yards in just ten games as a sophomore, he injured a knee that required several surgeries. After a 131-yard effort in the Tigers season opener, he was awarded a game ball for his perseverance and determination.
Defensively, Missouri's defense is an attacking, ballhawking unit that feeds off turnovers and big plays. The Tigers have picked off six passes in two games, and come into the contest with the Hoosiers with an active streak of 32 consecutive games with at least one interception. IU's Sudfeld will be challenged by Mizzou Senior DB E.J. Gaines. Gaines is active and instinctive, and already has pocketed two picks this season. DL Kony Ealy and Markus Golden can be disruptive up front and present a formidable challenge to Indiana's retooled offensive line.
The Tigers are also a dangerous return team, as junior WR/PR Marcus Murphy is one of the top returners in the nation. He broke Missouri records last year when he brought back four kicks for scores. IU is susceptible to big plays on special teams, so Murphy should attract some special attention. One might suspect the Hoosiers will simply kick away from him to limit the impact of a big return.
With a home loss to Navy already on the books, IU needs a win over a name-brand school like Missouri to keep its season on track. A victory over the SEC Tigers would help the Hoosiers resume, provided Indiana wins enough games to meet bowl eligibility.
Extra Points: IU leads the all-time series 6-2-2, including a perfect 4-0 mark at Memorial Stadium, a 4-0-1 ledger in Bloomington and a 6-0-2 record in the last eight games. The teams squared off for eight straight years from 1985-92 and in 1953 and 1954. The Hoosiers earned a 20-10 victory the last time the two teams met on Sept. 26, 1992, in Bloomington...Indiana’s last showdown against an SEC opponent resulted in a 38-14 home triumph vs. Kentucky on Sept. 17, 2005. This is the only Big Ten-SEC matchup during the 2013 regular season....Indiana has set a new three-game record with 150 points. The previous mark of 141 was set in 1917. It is the eighth time in program history IU has scored 35-plus points in a three-game stretch (last time 2010).