FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (52,354) -- Bloomington, Indiana. Television: BTN. Home Record: Northwestern 2-2, Indiana 3-1. Away Record: Northwestern 3-0, Indiana 1-2. Neutral Record: Northwestern 0-0, Indiana 0-0. Conference Record: Northwestern 1-2, Indiana 0-3. Series Record: Northwestern leads, 43-34-1.
The Wildcats have been road warriors this season, winning each of their three games away from home, including a 29-28 decision over Minnesota for their lone conference victory. Unfortunately, Northwestern has had some issues at home and the team is coming off back-to-back losses in its own backyard. The most recent of those setbacks took place this past weekend, a hard-fought 35-27 defeat to highly-ranked Michigan State.
As for the Hoosiers, they enter the contest in a bit of a rut, having dropped three of their last four outings. All three setbacks came in conference play, including a 43-13 loss at Illinois this past weekend.
With respect to the all-time series, Northwestern owns a 43-34-1 lead over Northwestern and that includes a 29-28 victory last season.
The Wildcats had MSU on the ropes for three quarters, but were outscored 21-3 in the final frame of a 35-27 setback this past weekend. Despite being sacked eight times, QB Dan Persa was productive for Northwestern, as he threw for 187 yards, in addition to rushing for 46 yards and three TDs. A dual-threat, Persa has proven he can get the job done with his legs or arm. He has connected on 75.7 percent of his pass attempts with 10 TDs against only three INTs, while leading the Wildcats with 341 yards and six scores on the ground. Persa's main target has been Jeremy Ebert, who has reeled in 37 balls for 580 yards and five TDs. Ebert, however, wasn't a factor last weekend, catching just two passes for 20 yards.
Northwestern's defense kept MSU in check for most of the afternoon, but wore down in the fourth quarter with three TDs surrendered. The unit did a terrific job limiting MSU's potent ground attack to 105 yards, although that came at the expense of the pass defense. The Wildcats were torched for 352 passing yards on 30-of-44 attempts. Northwestern is giving up 235.7 ypg on the year, but has compensated some with 10 INTs. The Wildcats failed to come up with a pick against MSU, however. Bryce McNaul and Vince Browne both did there part versus MSU, as they each forced a fumble and recorded a sack. Browne now has nine TFLs and six sacks on the season, as he leads the team in both departments.
Turnovers did the Hoosiers in this past weekend, as they gave away the ball five times in a lopsided loss to Illinois. Four of the mishaps came on INTs, including two that were taken back over 60 yards for a score. It was obviously a complete meltdown from an offense that had thrown a total of just four INTs through the first six games. QB Ben Chappell was guilty of three of those picks against Illinois and he finished with 279 yards on 26-of-48 pass attempts. It was clearly one of the worst games of the season for Chappell, who has still completed 66.2 percent of his tosses with 17 TDs against six INTs. Damarlo Belcher has been Chappell's main outlet with 47 receptions and 569 yards on the year and that includes six receptions for 59 yards last weekend.
Despite what the score would indicate, the Indiana defense did not play poorly in last weekend's 43-13 loss to Illinois. The Hoosiers limited Illinois to just 289 total yards, but were hurt by turnovers from their own offense. That really hasn't been the case for most of the year however, as Indiana is permitting 384.7 total ypg, including 169.3 ypg on the ground. The defense has given up 15 TDs through the air and another 11 on the ground, while forcing only 11 turnovers. Leon Beckum has made some big plays for this defense, as he leads the way with three sacks, including one last weekend.
The Wildcats have had good success on the road this season and they should be able to continue that trend this weekend behind a big game from Persa.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northwestern 38, Indiana 31