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WILDCATS LOOK TO GET BACK ON TRACK IN BLOOMINGTON

Posted By Ben Chiswick On Oct 28 2010 @ 10:20 am In Northwestern | No Comments

Now, it’s time to get back on the horse.

Following back-to-back heartbreaking losses at home – including last Saturday’s near-upset over undefeated Michigan State – the Northwestern Wildcats (5-2, 1-2) will hit the road for a visit to Bloomington and a date with the Indiana Hoosiers (4-3, 0-3) this weekend.

On the surface, this game appears to be winnable.

The Hoosiers tend to be a Big Ten bottom feeder when it comes to football. They are winless in conference play, in part because they have allowed more than 30 points-per-game and nearly 170 rushing yards-per-game this season. They likely remember last year’s meeting, when the Wildcats roared back from a 28-3 deficit to win, 29-28, in Evanston.

As the ‘Cats learned a few weeks back against Purdue, however, there is no such thing as an easy conference game in the Big Ten. Moreover, a deeper look reveals an opponent that may be more dangerous than a first glance implies.

While the Hoosiers have lost all three of their conference games, their treacherous Big Ten schedule has featured a last-second home loss to Michigan followed by a pair of blowout losses on the road at Ohio State and Illinois. With the Illini back to form, those difficult match-ups have created a misleading record that overshadows a potent offense.

The Indiana attack is led by fifth-year senior Ben Chappell, who is in his third year as the Hoosiers’ starting quarterback and ranks among the school’s all-time leaders in completion percentage (1st), completions (2nd), passing touchdowns (3rd), passing yards (4th), total offense and passing attempts (4th). He is only 32 completions and 10 touchdown passes away from setting new school records in those categories.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you how badly Kirk Cousins carved up the Northwestern pass defense last week.

Chappell has already thrown for 2,137 yards this season, averaging 305 passing yards-per-game to go along with 17 touchdown passes. His 480 passing yards against Michigan on October 2 was the most ever allowed by the Wolverines in their tradition-rich history.

According to the numbers, you can figure he is going to throw the ball around 40 times. There won’t be much of a guessing game on Saturday. The Hoosiers’ offense is fairly straightforward, boasting six different receivers with double-digit catches and at least 100 receiving yards but not a single player that has rushed for 300 yards on the year.

Last week, the Northwestern defense was charged with stopping a vaunted running game. They did so, although in the end it was not enough to win. This week, they will have to shift their focus to a high-octane passing attack.

If the ‘Cats can slow down Chappell and his stable of receivers, this Saturday’s game will have a much more pleasant outcome for the Wildcats.

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