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Danger signs are there as Illinois prepares to meet Indiana

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase could find lot room work against questionable Indiandefense. | Nati Harnik/AP

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase could find a lot of room to work against a questionable Indiana defense. | Nati Harnik/AP

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The facts: 2:30 p.m., BTN, 560-AM.

The records: Illinois 3-5, 0-4 Big Ten; Indiana 3-5, 1-3.

The line: Indiana by 9.

Updated: December 10, 2013 6:16AM

Five things I don’t want to know yet about Illinois’ game at Indiana on Saturday but am afraid I already do:

1. To paint a picture of how explosive Indiana’s offense is, consider that the 2012 Hoosiers — who ranked second in the Big Ten in total offense — had 17 touchdown drives that took five or fewer plays to execute. This year’s offense has 27 such drives already. If they get that number to 30 against Illinois, they’ll have their second Big Ten victory.

2. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase must average 357 total yards over the final four games to break Juice Williams’ Illinois career record of 10,594. Care to guess how many times the senior has gone for at least 357 this season? Try just once, in the opener against Southern Illinois. (He had 356 total yards last week at Penn State.) Indiana, though, is an opportunity for Scheelhaase to throw — and run — for a ton of yards. We’ll throw caution to the wind and say he amasses close to 400.

3. Somehow, Indiana has an even worse rushing defense than Illinois, ranking 114th nationally in that category (allowing 224.1 yards per game) to the Illini’s 113th (223.1). And yet watch as the Hoosiers work much harder than the Illini to establish their run game.

Indiana’s Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston are weapons, but this is more about Illini offensive coordinator Bill Cubit’s refusal to believe in his own ground attack. Cubit should look to get Josh Ferguson and even Donovonn Young going early, but will he? Don’t bet on it.

4. Illinois’ play in the secondary last week really wasn’t bad at all. Now comes a massive test in the form of three Hoosiers wideouts — Shane Wynn, Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes — who are legitimate home run hitters. Coach Tim Beckman believes his group of young cornerbacks is beginning to come around, but this matchup will set them back a ways.

5. Indiana has four games this season in which it allowed zero sacks. It is allowing one sack per 29 pass attempts, a very respectable number. Given the Illini’s blatant inability to rush the passer, this swings all the analysis in favor of the home team. Another long afternoon for Tim Banks’ defense.


Twitter: @slgreenberg

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