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B1G 2014 // Indiana Cocktail Party Preview

Indiana Week kicks off today!

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

At Indiana, tailgating is just as, if not more important than, the football taking place (a fact that annoys me greatly, but it is what it is). If you should happen to find yourself in Bloomington or near IU fans while tailgating/football is going on around you, there's a chance you'll want to make some small talk.

Now, if you really want to talk to most Indiana fans, even at football games, you can pretty safely ignore most of this if your knowledge of basketball is strong, and your opinions of Tom Crean are stronger. For the rest of you, a brief primer on Indiana football follows (alcohol not included).

About Last Season

The good news:

The offense took a giant leap forward, the defense showed flashes of competence, and the monkey on our back known as "Beating Penn State" was finally removed. The first game of the season nearly produced a school record for points in a game. Cody Latimer and Ted Bolser showed the NFL enough to get drafted, and many other talented players signed free agent deals after the draft.

The bad news:

All the progress in the world only tacked on one win to the overall record. The defense gave up 63 points to a team that needed to get lucky to hold off Akron. The offense failed to show up in Madison and Columbus. The Navy game happened. The end of the Minnesota game happened. Mizzou happened to pick this year to challenge for dominance in the SEC.

The Offense

The good news:

Indiana broke or tied almost every school scoring record in 2013, missing out on most points in one game by about a field goal. Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson both proved to be very capable leading the offense, and Tevin Coleman was having a breakout year before a foot issue kept him out near the end of the season. Shane Wynn and Cody Latimer led a strong group of receivers, and 4 or 5 different Hoosiers joined the 100 career catches/1000 career yards receiving club. Though the offensive line was patchwork for large parts of the year, the offense was able to play a very fast hurry-up rivaling that of Oregon in years past. Most of this same offense returns in 2014.

The bad news:

As well as it worked last year, Indiana is still trying to run both Tre and Nate onto the field as starting quarterbacks, and not having a consistent quarterback may come back to bite the Hoosiers eventually. Though it was great for Latimer to head off to the NFL early, that does leave Indiana minus one of its best receivers. Shane Wynn is expected to step up into the spot Latimer vacated, but Wynn is no Latimer, which means other wide receivers will have to step up and be heard from if the offense is to match or improve upon last year's.

The Defense

The good news:

Well, the defense wasn't absolutely abysmal, which is kind of a step up. Tim Bennett has turned himself into one of the country's best pass defenders, and the young defensive line got a year of experience and training under their belts. And a new defense coordinator got hired, so that might be exciting.

The bad news:

Until proven otherwise, this is still Indiana's defense, with all the innuendo and implications that comes with. You can't really even say there's nowhere to go but up, because the defense is perfectly capable of going utterly nowhere, and that certainly isn't up.

The Special Teams

The good news:

The kicking and receiving was as good or better than the usual Indiana standard. Mitch Ewald set a few school records, and for the first time in a few years the Hoosiers actually had return touchdowns.

The bad news:

Ewald graduated. And the less said about the punting, the better. *cough*Bowling Green*cough* Decent might be good enough, so let's hope decent is the minimum we get.

The Schedule

The good news:

There are definitely 6-7 winnable games on the schedule. If the Hoosiers can go 3-1 or better in the non-conference, a bowl game is very much in sight. There are no really easy games (with the possible exception of Indiana State), but there are a lot of opportunities to make some noise.

The bad news:

The Hoosiers will have to win multiple games on the road to have a chance of doing well in 2014. Indiana travels to Bowling Green (a likely win, but no guarantee), Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers, and Ohio State. At least two of those will have to be wins if Indiana wants to improve upon last year's performance.

If Talking to an ACTUAL Indiana fan (reversible jacket fans don't count), Don't Mention: the last time Indiana played North Texas, the fumble against Minnesota, anything related to falling metal, the number of empty seats in Memorial Stadium

Do Mention: The success of the offense, how much you're looking forward to basketball season, Antwaan Randle-El, where the party will be before, during, and after the game


Monday: Cocktail Party Preview

Tuesday: Smartest Guys in the Room

Wednesday: Potluck Part 1

Thursday: Potluck Part 2/Smoking Lounge

Friday: Keeping the Enemy Close