Over the course of this article, Know Your Enemy is going to think harder about Indiana Football than anyone did the last six years combined.
Q: So I know that Indiana is pretty much horrible right now. Have they always been horrible?
A: Not forever, just most of the time. Let me give you a brief history of Indiana Hoosier football:
1945 - Indiana wins their only outright Big Ten title, with a 9-0-1 record under Bo McMillin. The Hoosiers are led by one of college football's racial pioneers, George Taliaferro, who eventually made his way to 3 All-American lists. This is actually the high point of Indiana football, as they would never win 9 or more games again.
1946 - McMillin quits coaching to become athletic director. Whoops.
1960 - Indiana hit with crippling sanctions from the NCAA related to free plane rides. The Hoosiers are banned from postseason play for four years. Did you guys know about this? I did not.
1968 - Indiana makes their only Rose Bowl, losing to USC.
1973 - Not so fast my friend! Lee Corso takes over as coach. He leads to winning seasons in '79 and '80, beating the previously undefeated BYU in the 1979 Holiday Bowl.
1987 - Indiana wins 8 games. Also, I was born.
1993 - Indiana wins 8 games again.
1994-2012 - TIRE FIRES. INSIGHT BOWL. THEN MORE FACTORIES OF SADNESS.
So yeah. The Hoosiers have had a few years of competence, but they've never been really good (they haven't won 9 games since 1945), and they're usually been pretty horrible.Q: I assume pretty horrible also included last season?
A: It sure did! In Kevin Wilson's first year as head coach, the Hoosiers went 1-11, failing to defeat a single FBS team. They were fairly competitive at the start of the year (lost by 6 to Penn State and by less than a TD to Virgina, Ball State, and North Texas), but by the time they got into the thick of Big Ten play, they were simply obliterated. Indiana gave up more than 50 points three times (Wisconsin, MSU, AND Northwestern), and other than Penn State, they didn't hold a single Big Ten team under 30. By any statistical measure, Indiana was one of the worst defensive teams in the country (115th in scoring, 116th in rushing yards, dead last at stopping big passing plays, etc), and they didn't have nearly the offensive horses to win shootouts. True freshman Tre Robinson took over the QB job halfway through the year, and while he slowed flashes of effectiveness, he still did true freshman things.
Q: Did they have any bright spots during all those years of suck? Some famous grads, perchance?
A: As far as football is concerned, not too many. Indiana hasn't produced a 1st round pick since Thomas Lewis in 1994. Antwaan Randle El was certainly entertaining during his run at Indiana, and has had a fairly notable career in the NFL. Tracy Porter was a 2nd rounder in 2008, and has done well for my New Orleans Saints. Anthony Thompson got 2nd in Heisman voting 1989. That's about it.
As far as famous non-footballers go, we have sportscasters Joe Buck (BOOOOO THIS MAN), and Dick Enberg. Academic and radio show host Tavis Smiley is an Indiana grad (author's note: if you are interested in sociology or current events, you really should read some of his stuff). So is everyone's favorite sports owner, Mark Cuban.
IU has also produced a ton of really famous jazz musicians. So that's pretty cool.
Q: Are they going to be much better next year?
A: I feel comfortable saying yes, in part because you can't do a whole lot worse than the Hoosiers did last season. Seeing what Indiana does with Robinson should be interesting. He's a dual threat QB (he nearly ran for 100 yards against OSU), and his accuracy and judgement should improve with experience. Indiana also brought in Sean Littrel (from a very pass-heavy Arizona Wildcat team) as OC, so you'd have to think that he could find ways to get more passing production out of Robinson. They will both have some experienced wideouts to work with, like Kofi Hughes (who also gouged the Buckeyes for 147 yards last year). If Robinson isn't that guy, the Hoosiers could turn to JUCO transfer Cameron Coffman to run the show.
Indiana started 3 freshman on their line last year and they bring back RB Stephan Houston (802 yards rushing). They can expect some productivity out of their running game, especially since Robinson and Coffman are effective runners as well.
Q: What about their defense?
A: Welp, Rome wasn't built in a day. Hell, Logansport wasn't built in a day either. It'll take some time for Indiana to bring in the playmakers needed to build a respectable Big Ten defense. The biggest weakspot last year was likely the secondary, which had a measly 5 interceptions all year (which would make for a great season for ONE guy), and were routinely gouged for huge plays. Their season stats would have even been worse if teams weren't able to build such big leads and stop passing late in games. A bevy of JUCO transfers may help at least stop the bleeding, like defensive back Ryan Thompson and linebacker David Cooper. The Hoosiers return 3 CBs, but those CBs were awful last year, so maybe that isn't a good thing.
Defensive Tackle appears to be Indiana's strongest position, with Larry Black (47 tackles, 1.5 sacks) and Adam Replogle (49 tackles 4.0 sacks) coming back. They got almost no production from their ends or linebackers though, and will need others to step up if they're going to reach their potential.
Q: Do the Hoosiers have a shot at a bowl this year?
A: Not unless every single JUCO guy catches fire and the Hoosiers get really lucky. They should have a chance to grab more than one win this year, as their pre-Big Ten schedule is pretty manageable (Indiana State, FBS newcomer UMass, Ball State, and Navy). The Hoosiers should go at least .500 there. Even if the squad significantly improves on both sides of the ball, it's hard to see where they can get more than one Big Ten win. They don't play Minnesota, and have Illinois, Purdue, and Penn State all on the road.
They do get Ohio State at Home....but...c'mon. Indiana hasn't beaten OSU since before some of you guys were even born (1988 to be exact. As previously mentioned, I was 1). They have multiple *giant* holes on defense, and an offense that looks to fluctuate between decent and meh. A Hoosier victory over the Buckeyes would be a colossal upset.