BIG TEN: INDIANA
The Hoosiers last went to a bowl game at the conclusion of a bittersweet 2007 season. Indiana succeeded that year, playing for the memory of recently departed head coach Terry Hoeppner.
Indiana’s struggles thereafter led to former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson taking over in 2011. Wilson’s high-tempo style produces excitement and helps cultivate star performances. Last year, running back Tevin Coleman broke the 2,000-yard barrier.
There have been some promising moments at IU under Wilson: namely taking Ohio State to the brink in the Buckeyes’ perfect 2012, beating Penn State for the first time in program history in 2013 and running circles around SEC East champion Missouri last year.
However, wildly inconsistent defense has doomed Indiana to some damning losses, like year’s 45-42 decision against Bowling Green and a confounding blowout loss at Rutgers.
Wilson is preaching a more aggressive approach to the IU defense, similar to how the Hoosiers attack on offense. Via the Chicago Tribune:
What I want to see, and I’ve hit this with our coaches tremendously, is the body language and the demeanor of an attacking defense. It’s been a disconnect since I’ve been here. It’s no one’s fault but mine. I’m an aggressive-attacking coach, and I don’t see our defense play that way.
The offense will be fine. Returning Nate Sudfeld from injury provides a boost, and the run game shouldn’t miss a beat with UAB star transfer Jordan Howard taking over for Coleman. Shoring up that defense is critical to IU reaching a bowl game.
Indiana’s first month is the opposite of Virginia’s. The Hoosiers have a very real chance at opening 4-0. If they do, we’ll know a bowl game is probably in IU’s immediate future, because contests against Western Kentucky and Wake Forest are the kind of speed bumps that have held back the Hoosiers in recent years.
Home games against Rutgers and Iowa are likely must-haves, as is the rivalry weekend meeting with Purdue. Sneak in one of those opposites that have been customary under Wilson — perhaps Michigan or Maryland — and the final week against Purdue isn’t white-knuckle time for a program that’s been notoriously bad in pivotal games.
This should be the year you BUY Indiana as a bowl team.