Sunday, June 24, 2012

Previewing Big Ten Football: Indiana

Indiana football. The image it represents does not inspire battle cries. Indiana has had the lowest winning percentage of all Big Ten teams over the past ten seasons. The only year they went to a bowl game, the 2007 season, the Hoosiers posted seven wins. In fact, Indiana is averaging half a win less per season than their nearest competitor, Illinois.

Even by Indiana standards, 2011 was an awful season, as the Hoosiers only beat FCS opponent South Carolina State. Out of their 11 losses, six were decided by 14 points or more. Still, Indiana started the season competitive, with their first four losses by no more than seven points each.

So what does that mean for the 2012 season? In my article last week, you'll see that I bumped  up their record by 3 wins. That might be over-reaching things by a lot, but with Kevin Wilson coming into his second season as coach, and 19 returning starters anything can happen.Wilson also brought in a new offensive coordinator in Seth Littrell, who is famed for bringing along Nick Foles in Arizona. Unfortunately, they will not be contenders in the Leaders Division. While they are returning 19 starters, there were 3 quarterbacks who saw playing time last year. Tre Roberson finished last season as the starter, so he's projected to start this season as the same. Cameron Coffman will be backing Roberson up, since neither of the other two QBs who played last year are returning.
Indiana doesn't have a strong running game, but RB Stephen Houston is returning, and along with Roberson they amassed over 1200 yards last year. What will help Houston more in becoming a well rounded threat on the field is solidity in their offensive line, and for them that starts with center Will Matte. They don't have a super sized line like Wisconsin, but what they lack in girth they try to make up for in speed. 

Along with Houston, Kofi Hughes and Jamonne Chester return as the leading receivers. I'm expecting them to post better numbers in 2012, rather than the 10 TDs combined they had in 2011. Now, this is where a little bit of my prediction might come to fruition. Returning QB, RB, and two WRs usually spell some success for almost any football team. Then again, Indiana is unlike most football teams. 

The defense was a huge handicap for Indiana last year. Their inability to force turnovers really hurt their chances later on during the games. All-Big Ten freshman Chase Hoobler returns as the only returning starter in the linebacker group. Sophomore Mark Murphy returns as safety, and he has shown flashes of great potential. 
Another aspect that might prove to be successful or folly is Wilson's use of junior college transfers.  He is bringing in 6 junior college players next year and some of them have already played at a higher level than others. Whether or not this will translate into wins for Indiana is any one's guess because when your program wins 1 game a season before, it's all up for grabs.

So yes, I projected Indiana's season to be 4-8. Keep in mind they have a lighter non conference schedule than some of their division brethren, so that helps considerably. They should be able to squeak out wins against Indiana St, Navy, and Umass. That 4th win I thought would be a win against Penn St, or it might even be against Illinois, who never seem to fare better than them and are their closest rivals in the Big Ten. I like what Wilson has done so far, and I wish him the best of luck this season.

Indiana Predictions:
Record: 4-8
Big Ten Finish: 12th
Ability To Compete With Top Teams: Very Small
Upset Status: Small
Bowl Status: None

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