Our B1G 2012 Indiana week rolls on, and this year, every Thursday is going to be kind of a wild card day--we don't have a theme for Thursdays, and we might not even have a story posted. If this were a game of Monopoly, consider Thursday the ‘Free Parking' square. Some folks who play the game put all fines and taxes into the middle of the board, and if you land on it you get to collect the money. Others players, who we like to call 'Communists' and 'terrorist sympathizers', just use it as a free, open space, void of anything significant.
Much like the Indiana bowl trophy case. So if there's a story on Thursdays, enjoy the bonus. If not, well, I guess we've all become communists and/or terrorist sympatizers for a day. Viva la revolucion!!
So today, consider yourself playing a Monoploy game with money in the middle, and you just landed on Free Parking. Because I'm gonna ‘splain how Indiana can make a bowl game in 2012.
After the jump.
Am I being overly optimistic? Well, of course. I mean, it's not like we're talking about a traditional power program that ran into a couple years of mediocrity, like Michigan, or a couple decades, like Notre Dame. We're talking a program that has been historically bad. They've only won two conference titles (5 less than the University of Chicago Maroons, who last won a title in 1924 and left the B1G in 1939), didn't win the only Rose Bowl they ever went to, and have only been to 9 bowl games in their history.
And they've been playing football at Indiana since 1887. Really, Hoosiers? Really?
So yeah, I'd say I'm going out on a limb here. But I'm not afraid, because I think Indiana has the potential to get to 6 wins. This is how:
First off, Kevin Wilson is a good coach, and spent last year trying to get his team to buy into the fact that they aren't going to be what Indiana has historically been. True, they were 1-11, and there's really no sugarcoating that, but for a few bounces and breaks, they are a 4 or 5 win team, easy, and then this post doesn't come off as lunatic fringe. He played a lot of young kids, and they slowly but surely got better as the season wore on.
Remember, as late as 2010 the Hoosiers were 5 wins and a dropped pass in the end zone against Iowa from being bowl eligible. When you look at the playmakers they could potentially have on offense, along with some talented Juco transfers to plug some gaps in the defense, you can start to talk yourself into it. Let's look at the schedule:
Their non-conference games are Indiana State, UMass, and Ball State. I'm calling 3-0 and halfway home before conference play even begins. Indiana State and UMass are .500 FCS teams, and Ball State is a MAC program that was at .500 and had some key players graduate. If Kevin Wilson wants Indiana football to be taken seriously in even a remote way, 3-0 is a must starting out the gate.
Now comes the tricky part--3 wins in the conference plus an October game at the Naval Academy. I don't think they're winning the Navy game, and I'm also tossing out the MSU, OSU, and Wisconsin games-no shot in those, either. That means I have to find three wins from games at Northwestern, at Illinois, against Iowa, at Penn State, and at Purdue.
I'm calling Northwestern, Illinois, and Purdue. Yeah, they're going to go 3-2 against those 2011 bowl teams.
Northwestern loses Dan Persa, and as much as I respect what Pat Fitzgerald does in Evanston, they're going to run out of playmaker quarterbacks eventually. Kain Colter, I like you, but I don't know that you can be as dynamic as Mike Kafka and Dan Persa have been. And I really like Tre Roberson. Granted, against an Indiana defense you don't need Persa or Kafka, but still, I think Indiana can win this game by outscoring the Wildcats.
I have no idea what to expect from Illinois. Last year, I really thought they were a darkhorse contender for the B1G title game, and I felt vindicated after 6 weeks. But they fell apart, and only finished above .500 by beating an equally mediocre UCLA team in the worst bowl of the whole post season smorgasbord. I really, really like Tim Beckman as a coach, but I think the Illini are in for a really down year this season as they get used to a new coaching staff and system.
Oh, Purdue. While I won't predict you'll go 1-11 this year like some people, he he, and I was very appreciative of you outlasting your MAC bowl opponent in Detroit...I can't jump on your bandwagon yet. I see you as a 5 or 6 win team, on par with the Hoosiers, and I see the game for the Old Oaken Bucket a battle. You barely squeaked by a bad Indiana team last year, and I can envision a scenario where you lose to them. They beat you in West Lafayette two years ago, and with 5 wins and a bowl game on the line, I think they best you.
So Indiana gets to a bowl game in their second season, and Kevin Wilson gets more than a couple votes for B1G coach of the year.
Or they finish 1-11 or 2-10 and Wilson enters 2013 on the hot seat. I can go either way on this.