What have we learned about the 2010 Indiana Hoosiers?
Senior quarterback Ben Chappell is really, really good
The defense still has a long way to go and a lot of holes
The schedule has been favorable
That's about it. Indiana has won the games it was supposed to (Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron and Arkansas State) and lost the games it entered as an underdog (Michigan, Ohio State).
We might know less about Indiana than any Big Ten team to this point in the season. But the waiting game ends Saturday at Illinois' Memorial Stadium.
At the start of the fourth quarter, to be exact.
The Hoosiers showed last fall that they could compete in Big Ten games. They simply couldn't finish them off.
Indiana was outscored 88-45 in the fourth quarters of its seven Big Ten losses last year. The Hoosiers were blanked by a combined count of 38-0 in losses to Iowa and Northwestern, games in which they built big leads but collapsed late.
The trend continued this fall in the Big Ten opener against Michigan, which outscored Indiana 21-14 in the second half. The Wolverines scored the winning touchdown with 17 seconds left.
"They finished better than we did," IU coach Bill Lynch said. "There's not any magic to it, and it's not, 'If we do this, this will happen.' We have to play good, sound football."
Lynch knows what to expect from Chappell and the offense, but Indiana's Big Ten fortunes likely rest with the nation's 89th-rated defense (400.7 ypg).
The Hoosiers have been a bit banged up in the secondary -- Chris Adkins and Richard Council remain out with injuries -- and the pass rush has yet to emerge (Indiana ranks 102nd in sacks and 104th in tackles for loss). Lynch's primary focus is cutting down the big plays, which really hurt Indiana down the stretch in 2009 and showed up against Denard Robinson and Michigan on Oct. 2.
"We gave up way too many big plays against Michigan and Ohio State," Lynch said. "We did a better job last week of that, but we have to carry that over once we get back in conference play."