by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
To get you ready for each of Northwestern’s opponents, we’re singling out players to watch on both sides of the ball, one major strength, one glaring weakness and one under the radar player to keep an eye on. For some statistical insight, we’ll also provide context with some basic numbers and facts. This week we look at Indiana.
Players to watch
Offense: QB Cameron Coffman
Coffman has started the last two games after original starter Tre Roberson went down with injury and has done a nice job filling in for the Hoosiers. Indiana is 1-1 with a win against Massachusetts and a loss to Ball State under Coffman's command, but the loss was hardly his fault, as the Hoosiers put up 39 points. Coffman isn't as mobile as Roberson, but he's been an incredibly efficient passer as a backup, completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 410 yards and 3 touchdowns in two games. Coffman is one of the best passers that NU has seen yet and he has continued to build confidence. If he can get out to a quick start, he could get on a roll, turning the game into a shootout and making it closer than NU wants.
Defense: DT Adam Replogle
The Indiana defense is bad. Very bad. You have to be bad to five up 17 points to Indiana State and 41 points to Ball State. However, it's a very green unit that has some talent, which could make it dangerous if it puts everything together. Coach Kevin Wilson is relying on transfer players and new recruits to help turn his defense around, but he has an experienced player in Adam Replogle. Replogle, a senior, has 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Northwestern's offensive line has done a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage, and the Indiana defensive line hasn't gotten very much pressure. However, if Replogle has success breaking through the line, NU's running game could struggle, especially since Wildcats' running back Venric Mark isn't great at moving the pile. Replogle will be a good test for NU's interior defensive line to start the Big Ten season.
Biggest Strength: Passing offense
Northwestern won soundly last year, but Indiana still rolled on offense, and Fitzgerald said he expects this to be the toughest test yet for his defense. The NU offense still has inexperience in the secondary, and if Coffman finds some holes, that could open things up and cause a flood of points like the NU-Syracuse game earlier this year. Coffman is solid and he has some quality receivers in Cody Latimer, Shane Wynn and Kofi Hughes. Latimer broke out this year and already has 14 catches for 223 yards, and Wynn has 15 catches for 145 yards and a team-leading 3 touchdowns. Hughes has underperformed so far, but he certainly has the potential to break out at some point. The Hoosiers have more weapons at receiver than any team the Cats have faced so far, so NU won't be able to zero in on one player.
Biggest weakness: Defense
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson admitted before the season that the defense isn't there yet. The Hoosiers' defense allowed Indiana State to make it a game and gave up 41 points to Ball State. It did hold Massachusetts to just six points, but that's hardly an accomplishment. The rush defense hasn't been great, and considering how well NU has been controlling the line of scrimmage, it could be another big day for Mark and Mike Trumpy. However, the bigger concern for the Hoosiers has been the pass defense, as it gave up four touchdowns through the air to Ball State. NU is focused on the run game — "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," is how quarterback Kain Colter put it — but Saturday could present an opportunity for the Cats to get the passing game going and gain some momentum before facing a tougher defense at Penn State the following week.
Under the radar: WR Cody Latimer
Latimer had only 12 catches as a freshman last year, but he already has 14 receptions just three games into his sophomore campaign and leads the Hoosiers with 223 receiving yards. Kofi Hughes got all the attention coming into the season and was expected to be Indiana's biggest playmaker on offense, but Latimer has taken on that role and continued a line of impressive Hoosiers receivers. Latimer has been Coffman's go-to player, and while NU's secondary has improved from last year, it is still inexperienced and Latimer has big-play ability. He has to have a big game for Indiana to be competitive.