Sunday, August 26, 2007
Big 10 Preview: Indiana
I can't imagine a more difficult situation to go through for a program and a community than watching their coach fade away before their eyes. In a sport where boys are expected to be men and men are expected to be superhuman, weakness and illness aren't something you talk about. Former Indiana Head Coach Terry Hoeppner fought like a champion, lost like a hero, and cannot be replaced. He was one of the few good guys in a filthy profession and I refuse to talk about their new coach or make references to him "replacing" Hep. Moving on.
You can't talk about Indiana football without acknowledging that it's a basketball school. It's unrealistic to have championship aspirations with this program. Additionally, there's the fact that they're on their 3rd coach in 4 years and you've got significant instability as well. The positive aspect of this is that with tempered expectation you've also got the chance to be happy with lesser results. Their non-conference schedule should result in 4 wins. Their Big 10 schedule does not include tOSU or Michigan and while this does not guarantee success, it certainly means you can't automatically add 2 losses to the balance sheet. They have Minnesota, Illinois, and Purdue at home, which are all winnable games. With road games at Michigan State (horrible) and Northwestern (bad) I don't think 8 wins is impossible.
Is Indiana a good team? No. Do they have wide receiver extraordinaire James Motherfucking Hardy? Yes. I just puked in my mouth (burrito) simply by typing his name. Seeing Hardy lineup across from Adam "Shutdown" Shada was akin to seeing your momma go on a date with Shaq. You know he's going to damage her and she'll never be the same, but you're powerless to stop it. He's one of the scariest offensive weapons I've seen in the Big 10 in recent memory. What's more, he's got a quarterback in Kellen Lewis who can throw him the damn ball. Lewis also led the Hoosiers in rushing last season as well. These players are enough to give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares. That's the good news. Now for the bad.
Their defense is historically bad. They were one of the worst 10 units in the country last year. They give up 200 YPG on the ground and put no pressure on opposing QB's. They've always been bad on defense and I see nothing that tells me it's going to change. They have 7 returning starters, which... is not good news. It's like getting back together with an ex who cheated on you and always gave you the small half of the sandwich. You don't want them back but you're resigned to the fact that you can't do any better. However, one of the good things about giving up 5 TD's a game means you get plenty of opportunities to practice your kickoff returns, and this is where Indiana is most dangerous. Last season, Marcus Thigpen (RB/WR) averaged over 30 yards per return and took 3 to the house. That's good enough to be #1 in the nation. Good enough to win a game on his own.
This isn't a good team, to be sure, but for Indiana, they're as good as it gets. They've got some talent at their skill positions, a soft schedule, and I can promise you after the example set by Hep, they won't quit. I think you're going to see a feisty and spirited Hoosier team this year. This season could result in their first bowl game in the history of their program (I didn't verify this, but assume it to be true). Enjoy it Hoosiers, it may never happen again.