Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
This week is the ultimate ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ matchup, a top ten defense faces a top 25 offense. A win, and the Hoosiers are 4-0 for the first time since 1990, but there’s much more riding on this game than history. Unless you live under a rock, not 'The Rock,' you know about the big push to bring College Gameday to Bloomington for the Indiana's matchup against Ohio State in a little over a week. But, before everyone gets ahead of themselves, the Hoosiers have a tough matchup against Wake Forest, so let’s take a look at the ‘Numbers that Matter’ for Saturday’s game in Winston-Salem.
23 – It’s been a while since the Demon Deacons have played in Winston-Salem, 23 days in fact. And on Saturday it will be in front of a raucous homecoming crowd who will be excited to cheer on their team for the first time in over three weeks.
31,500 – Taking the show on the road for the first time all season will certainly be a test in itself. Doing so it in front of boisterous, homecoming crowd will present an extra challenge for the Hoosiers. However, this is nothing like going on the road in the Big Ten East. BB&T field at full capacity only holds 31,500 fans, which makes it the smallest stadium among all Power Five teams. Ohio Stadium, Beaver Stadium, and Michigan Stadium are all three plus times greater in terms of crowd size, so at least there won’t be one hundred thousand rabid fans bearing down on them.
12:30 – The Hoosiers first three games have kicked off at 4:00, 8:00, and 4:00 PM, respectively. This might seem arbitrary, but routines are incredibly important to athletes. When to go to bed, when to wake up, when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat and numerous other decisions are all affected by the start times of games. So it will be interesting to see if the earlier kickoff has any effect on how this team plays on Saturday.
253.7 - The Demon Deacons’ defense present Coach Wilson and his offense with their biggest challenge of the young season. Wake Forest only gives up 253.7 yards per game, which is ninth best in the country. Moving the ball against this group will be a great test for the Hoosiers offense.
Net 30 – No, I’m not talking about trade terms. This is the difference between how many plays the Hoosiers normally run on offense each game (81.7) and how many plays opposing offenses run against Wake Forest’s (51.7) defense. The Indiana offense will need to get off to a faster start than it did last week, as their number of possessions and plays ran could be considerably less this week, making a second-half comeback that much more difficult.
2 – An injury to sophomore quarterback John Wolford last weekend forced true freshman Kendall Hinton into action. Word is that Wolford could be ready to go, however, the threat of Hinton playing further complicates the Hoosiers preparations for the Demon Deacons. So the Hoosiers have been preparing for two different quarterbacks this week.
312 - While they haven't done a great job of getting the ball into the endzone the last couple of games, Wake Forest has proven that they can move the ball through the air effectively, averaging 312 passing yards per game. Wolford is the better passer of the two quarterbacks, but make no mistake, Hinton also has a live arm.
507 - Jordan Howard has been as good, if not better than advertised since putting on the Cream and Crimson. His 507 rushing yards are best in the land, and with the threat of rain in the forecast, his play could be a determining factor in the outcome of the game.
101 – In addition to struggling against dynamic passing attacks, the Hoosiers defense has had a heck of a time trying to defend dual-threat quarterbacks. If Hinton does see action of Saturday, expect him to attempt to move the ball with his legs, as he already proved last week by rushing for 101 yards against Army, the he is not easy to bring down once he gets outside of the pocket.
- 6 - Ball security, so far this season, has not be a strength of the Demon Deacons. The last two games Wake Forest quarterbacks have turned the ball over six times, 4 interceptions by Wolford and 2 by Hinton. Their defense hasn't helped in the turnover department either, as they have yet to force one all season. Their negative six turnover margin ties for 121 out of 127 teams.
+ 5 - The Hoosiers on the other hand have done a good job of minimizing costly mistakes while forcing their opponents into errors and gaining extra possessions. More than that, the last five turnovers forced by the Indiana defense have resulted in touchdowns. In a game where opportunities look like they could be limited, the Hoosiers would greatly benefit if their defense were able to continue its ball-hawking nature on defense, giving Sudfeld and Co. more chances to put points on the board.
3 – Neither team has excelled at bringing down opposing quarterbacks, as evidenced by just their three sacks all season. However, what could largely be the difference on Saturday is the big guys up front on offense.
9,1 – The Wake Forest offensive line is much more prone to allowing their quarterback to go down, as they have surrendered nine sacks in three games. This is potentially an area the Hoosiers could exploit come Saturday, penning their ears back and getting to the quarterback much more than they had in weeks prior. On the other hand, the Hoosiers offensive line has given up just one sack all season. Based on what we've seen so far, Sudfeld should have plenty of time to go through his progressions and find his open receivers.
There are so many other stats that could have been on this list, including time of possession. Both teams rank among the top 40, so getting and maintaining possession of the ball will be huge. As such, this is a game where you can't afford to come up empty on any drive inside of Wake Forest's 30 yard line. The Demon Deacon's aren't quite the offensive threat that WKU was, but they can do somethings that give the Hoosiers some trouble, namely utilizing a dual threat quarterback. The College Gameday talk has been fun this week, but Coach Wilson and hopefully his players have one thing on their minds, taking care of business in Winston-Salem on Saturday at 12:30. Whatever happens after that is up to the football Gods, or ESPN executives.