Date/Time: Saturday, September 17, Noon ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Location: Memorial Stadium - Bloomington, IN
Betting Line: IU - 6.5, O/U 62.5
ESPN FPI: 54.8%
All-Time Series Record: Indiana leads the series 4-0
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&C’s apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details
Western Kentucky are off to a 2-0 start with wins against Austin Peay at home and at Hawaii. The Hilltoppers are scoring 43.5 points per game with points coming from both their offense and defense.
Austin Reed, a transfer from DII West Florida (where he won a national championship, btw) won the starting job for Tyson Helton’s team in fall camp. The self-described gunslinger is off to a decent start completing 42 of 65 attempts for 551 yards and a 64.6% completion percentage. He’s also up to seven touchdowns on the year with just two interceptions.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tops have some playmakers as well. Sophomore linebacker Jaques Evans is leading the way with 18 total tackles and 3.5 sacks. In the front seven, it’s also worth keeping an eye on senior defensive end Juwuan Jones who had a pick six in their last contest against Hawaii.
Indiana is coming off a 35-22 win against FCS Idaho. They were down 10-0 at the half, but scored 23 points in the first quarter. They started their season a few weeks ago with a three-point win over Illinois.
While the Hilltoppers are scoring more points this season than the Hoosiers, they are just about even in terms of yardage production. WKU is averaging 400 yards per game, while Indiana is averaging 399. Their offensive line are playing particularly well, paving the way for a rushing average of 4.4 yards per attempt and allowing only one sack.
Connor Bazelak is the Hoosiers’ quarterback after transferring in from Missouri in the offseason. He is 44 of 81 on the year with 527 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Putting more pressure on the redshirt junior will surely be a priority for WKU.
These two teams played each other last year with Indiana coming out on top. That being said, as Tyson Helton pointed out during his media availability on Monday, anything can happen now that both teams’ rosters look very different.
“It’s a new season,” Helton said. “Both teams have a new team with new guys playing for them. They’re a good football team. They’re doing a really good job. If you look at all three phases, they look pretty stout and pretty strong in all three phases, so it’s going to take our best game for sure to go win. But our guys are excited about the opportunity. We had a close one last year. If we can play well, I think we’ll match up well with them. I say all the time it’s a four-quarter game and we’ve got to play all four quarters, play a good, clean game and hopefully in the last five minutes try to go win.”
WKU’s high-powered offense is the best that Indiana has seen and their secondary will provide Bazelak with his toughest challenge of the year. While the Hoosiers are favored and are certainly improved from last year, it seems like WKU are in a much better groove than they were last year at this time. The Tops get the upset win 38-21.