Indiana vs. Virginia: Underdog Hoosiers Come Knockin' On Cavaliers' Door

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Indiana vs. Virginia: Underdog Hoosiers Come Knockin' On Cavaliers' Door
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Written by Nick Chouteau and Dan Karell

The Indiana Hoosiers are looking to rebound from a current two-game losing streak against the 1-3 Cavaliers of Virginia. The Hoosiers nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the young college football season when they almost beat, then ranked, No. 23 Michigan at the "Big House". Meanwhile, the University of Virginia had not played so well until the last two weeks.

The keys to the game for the Hoosiers seem to be pretty straight forward this week. To start off, we’ll take a look at what the Hoosiers will need to do on defense in order to beat Virginia this Saturday.

The Cavalier offense has been in shambles up until last week. However, one cannot say the unit has completely pulled together after just one game against a rival.

Virginia’s main threat to the Hoosiers is its rushing attack. Indiana seemed to have trouble stopping the rushing attack of Ohio State last week, and will be up to a similar task this week trying to contain Virginia running back Mikell Simpson. Simpson has totaled 33 carries and 164 yards on the season, or 5.0 yards per carry, including one touchdown. Expect the Cavaliers to try to push the running game early and often.

If the Hoosiers stop the run, they will greatly increase their chances of success on defense. Virginia's senior quarterback Jameel Sewell has struggled to say the least so far this year. Sewell is completing just 51.4 percent of his passes and has thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions.

Much like last week, the Hoosiers will have to contain Sewell from breaking the pocket and rushing. Sewell’s rushing statistics are slightly skewed because a suspect Cavalier offensive line which has given up 17 sacks this year, the most sacks allowed in the nation. Sewell is listed as having 70 rushing attempts for 88 yards, or 1.3 yards per carry.A closer look reveals his ability to run, though, as he has a long run of 29 yards on the year and three rushing touchdowns.

Indiana will need to put smart pressure on Sewell by forcing him to get rid of the ball before he wants to, but making sure they contain him. Indiana’s key players on defense will be its pair of senior defensive ends Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew, as well as captain senior linebacker Will Patterson.

Kirlew and Middleton combine to have the most sacks of any tandem in the nation, and together they will be needed to get to the quarterback early and often.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Hoosiers will have a few more problems. The Hoosiers recently have preferred to throw the ball, with junior quarterback Ben Chappell throwing for 1,154 yards in five games so far. However, Virginia is giving up only 156.5 yards per game on average through the air, and only three touchdown passes all season.

The Hoosiers instead will need to exploit the porous run defense of the Cavaliers, which is giving up an average of 145.2 yards a game on the ground, and has allowed five rushing touchdowns. Look to see the trio of Darius Willis, Trea Burgess, and Demitrius McCray run the ball right at the Cavalier defense all game.

When Chappell does drop back to pass, expect him to look for the quick, short throws to sophomore sensation Tandon Doss. Doss on the season has 32 receptions for 470 yards and a touchdown, and has become IU's best receiver so far.

The Hoosiers should be looking to throw the short slants and wide receiver screens to cancel out some of the speed of the Cavalier corners. Chappell will also need to stay focused and make the safe throws. Ball possession is very important in this matchup, and with six interceptions on the season, its imperative that Chappell keeps turnovers to a minimum.

If the Hoosiers want to go to a bowl game, they need to come up with a win here.

Surprisingly, Indiana is a seven-point underdog for this game, even though they are 3-2 on the season and Virginia is 1-3. Hopefully, IU head coach Bill Lynch can use this as a motivating tool, and the Hoosiers can come out with some fight and win this game!

My Prediction—IU Wins 31-17

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