The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are 2-0 to start the season and will look to make it 3-0 as they head to Bloomington, Indiana this Saturday to face the Hoosiers. This will be the fifth-ever meeting between the two teams after IU won 33-31 in Bowling Green last year.
2021 made for an epically close chance at a P5 upset for the Tops. Though both teams have many different pieces than last year, they once again have a chance for a big upset victory on Saturday.
To get a better insight on what to expect from the home Big Ten side, Luke Norton, managing editor CrimsonQuarry.com, SB Nation’s home for coverage of the Hoosiers, joined us for a brief chat.
IU has started the season 2-0. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed after they lost 8 straight games to finish last year?
First off, the offensive staff was largely revamped with the additions of offensive coordinator/QBs coach Walt Bell, RBs coach Craig Johnson and WRs coach Adam Henry. Indiana has a new system on offense for the first time since 2019, with former offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan working largely with a Kalen DeBoer playbook during his stint. Along with that, Tom Allen has reassumed control of defensive play calling to good results against Illinois and a rather interesting game against Idaho.
IU won last week against Idaho, but it obviously wasn’t the prettiest win. Did that game concern you at all?
Slightly. With all the upsets going on it just felt like that kind of day and the rain didn’t exactly help. But there are few, if any, valid excuses for getting shut out in the first half to an FCS opponent. Mind you, this was because Indiana kept hurting itself with turnovers and honestly should’ve kept the ball on the ground earlier and more often than it did.
How would you describe the differences between Connor Bazelak and Michael Penix?
It’s interesting because they’re both coming off of injuries in seasons where neither played particularly well and they’re both looking for a fresh start in a new place. Indiana has had more of a downfield passing game relative to last season and Bazelak seems to have worked on pocket presence and is very willing to throw the ball away when necessary. Penix is either much more willing or able to use his legs on designed rollouts or when scrambling.
What’s the biggest strength of IU’s defense? What is the biggest weakness?
Its strength is likely its secondary with multiple returning starters, developing talent and impact transfers. Its weakness may be the pass rush’s inability to get home.
If you went to this matchup last year at WKU, anything about Bowling Green that you particularly liked or just stuck out to you?
I ~wish~ I’d been able to go to Bowling Green. Looked like a fantastic environment with some good fans.
Alternatively, what’s something in Bloomington that Tops fans making the trip need to check out?
If you’re heading to Bloomington, I’d head to any of the restaurants on Kirkwood Ave that are local, places like Nick’s. There’s plenty of good coffeehouses like Hopscotch and Soma if you get here particularly early. If you’re a WKU student, the Upstairs Pub is the place to be.