Jumping back into our series examining the 2011 opening week opponents for each Big Ten team. We're going alphabetically, so it's Indiana's turn today. The Hoosiers open their season with an in-state matchup.
Week 1 Opponent: Ball State (at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis)
Coach: Pete Lembo (first year)
2010 record: 4-8 (3-5 Mid-American Conference)
Returning starters: 15 (eight offense, seven defense)
About the Cardinals: The 41-year-old Lembo takes over after successful runs as head coach at Lehigh and Elon. He replaces Stan Parrish, who went 6-18 in two years while following current Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. Lembo, who runs a no-huddle offense, has lots of areas to fix; Ball State finished 106th in total offense and 79th in total defense a year ago. The Cardinals had a quarterback competition this spring and sophomore Keith Wenning appears to be, um, winning the race. He threw for 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions as a true freshman. Leading rusher Eric Williams (613 yards in '10), returns as do the team's top two receivers and top two tacklers. Safety Sean Baker had five interceptions a year ago.
Random factoid: Hoke's nephew, Kyle Hoke, is a senior safety who started four games last season before suffering a year-ending ankle injury.
Series with Indiana: The Hoosiers lead 4-1, but Ball State won the last matchup, 42-20 in 2008.
Totally unscientific percentage chance Indiana wins: 76 percent. It's hard to know what to expect from either team, since both schools have first-year head coaches. We can expect a fast pace, since both the Hoosiers and Cardinals want to go without a huddle. Playing the game at Lucas Oil should negate much of a home field advantage. Since Hoke left, Ball State has been one of the worst teams in the FBS, so Indiana should be able to open the season with a victory. But if the history of Hoosier football has taught us anything, it's that we should never take an IU win for granted.