It's Indiana week and to continue the festivities, it's time for our weekly potluck. In honor of our Hoosier friends, we're going to take a look at everything from schedules and possible wins to the viability of Coach Kevin Wilson. We'll breeze through both sides of the ball, and we're even giving people a chance to change their helmet. Oh, and since the fair red school from Indiana doesn't have all that much experience with bowls - nine of them total, in fact - I figured we'd eat foods based on their various bowl appearances. It's a short enough list to make them all count and will maybe be a good memory of what happens once every ten years or so for the Hoosiers.
(Remember, links to the recipes if you click on the dish) (Also remember, I have not tried these recipes)
Appetizer - Shrimp and Nopal Cactus Salad: in honor of Indiana's last bowl - the Insight Bowl, now known as the Cactus Bowl (2007)
It seems like every year is the year Indiana makes it back to a bowl. Not unlike my belief that the Cubs will win the World Series every spring, the Hoosier faithful see six wins on the horizon. Unfortunately for them, that’s not exactly an easy task. Last year, even a 3-1 non-con wasn’t enough to doom the Hoosiers to another 4-8 season and a bowl season at home. What should we expect for this group going into 2015? Looking at the schedule, it looks manageable, but what are must wins for this team? How many wins will they need in conference?
Andrew Kraszewski: First, making a bowl game- which 2/3s of the Division 1 field will do this year- really shouldn't be as hard as winning the World Series when you're a founding member of the B1G.
Anyway, IU losing either of the first two would be a hilarious catastrophe. That's an FCS team and a post-Cristobal crater, both at home; no excuse, ever, at all, for dropping either, so put those in the must-win category. Beyond that...Western Kentucky is actually pretty skrong, and though Wake Forest is turbo-bad, that game is on the road. I'd certainly hope Indiana can win both, but I don't expect it. If we want to be on schedule for a bowl, 3-1 in the non-con is probably a necessity.
Moving on to the conference schedule, Ohio State and Michigan State are almost certainly losses. Hard to feel confident about Maryland, either, given they curb-stomped IU before the Sudfeld injury. Indiana almost sprang the upset on Penn State last year, but that game's in Happy Valley this year, so probably not. Rutgers you could convince me is a maybe, notwithstanding last year's result.
That leaves the most winnable games as Iowa and @Purdue. If the Hoosiers need the 3 conference wins I think they will, they need to win both of those and pull an upset somewhere else. Given IU's propensity for not even winning the games they should- Navy comes directly to mind- I'm sorry, but I don't see it happening this year. We SHOULD absolutely expect a bowl game, but I don't think they get there.
*scratch that- not a founding member, but joined in 1899 after the conference existed for only 3 years.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: 6 wins looks possible. 3-1 or 4-0 in the non-conf, then fill in the rest by beat some combination of Rutgers, Iowa, and Purdue. Easy, right? Wait, I forgot that we're talking about Indiana.
Candystripes for Breakfast: I think Andrew pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one. 3-1 in the noncon is a must (and 4-0 would be a godsend, especially with the questionable quality of all four of our opponents), so finding three or more wins in conference is a necessity. Doable? Sure. Likely? Well, it's Indiana football: nothing is ever "likely". IU's best hope would be to go 2-2 in October, leaving the entire month of November to find at least one win.
GF3: Every year I hope to see a different Indiana. After the surprise skunking on Mizzou on the road, I thought the Hoosiers really looked like they could be something. Then they lost Sudfeld, who apparently accounted for 3 of the 4 wheels on the proverbial cart. I expect that his resurrection could fix the moribund offense, but much of his lethality may have been owed to the fourth wheel, Tevin Coleman. They must win all of the non-cons and at least knock off Rutgers and Maryland. I mean for god's sake...Rutgers.
LincolnParkWildcat: I think Indiana can start off the season 4-0. They need to beat Iowa and Purdue, and maybe they’ll sneak by Rutgers and Maryland. I’m optimistic about this team for some reason.
Mike Jones: Everyone is focusing on the offensive losses that the Hoosiers had but it's worth pointing out that they only return 5 defensive starters. Kevin Wilson's teams never seem to have a problem finding an offensive presence. It's always stopping people that is Indiana's problem (unless it's Missouri). I can see IU going 3-1 or even 4-0 in the non-conference. The good thing for the Hoosiers is that they don't play Ball State or Navy, so there won't be any laughing across the B1G about losing to Ball State and Navy. I do think that Wake Forest, despite the fact that they're awful, could pose a problem for IU as it's on the road. Unfortunately, after that, it gets bumpy. I don't see the Hoosiers winning a road game. Simple as that. Their best chances for conference victories are all at home: Rutgers, Iowa, Michigan and Purdue. I think Indiana will have to take two or three of those if they're going to be successful. They'll also have to take two or three to make a bowl game.
Graham Filler: 5 wins. As many of our readers pointed out, slightly improved schedule plus terrible non-conference should get 3 or 4 wins in the non conference and 1 or 2 in the B1G.
Thomas Speth: I think Indiana gets 6 wins. They have a good shot at going 4-0 in non-conference, pull out just one conference game (Rutgers? Iowa? Maryland? Take your pick) before Purdue and I see that turning into the "Who Is Gonna Go To a Crappy Bowl?" game. I'll take Indiana putting up a lot of points on Purdue and winning that game.
MNWildcat: I expect 5-7/6-6, needing 2-3 wins in conference to make it bowling. Either 3-1 or 4-0 in non-conference. Probably 3-1, since, y'know, it's Indiana playing middling mid-majors.
Aaron Yorke: I'm expecting somewhere between four and six wins, depending on how many upsets this team can pull during conference season. Of course, if Indiana fails to win three or four games in September, you can throw a bowl appearance out the window, but if they can be 3-1 or 4-0 heading into conference play, then this could get interesting. If Sudfeld plays up to his potential, the home games will be competitive, which could set up and win-and-bowl situation in Purdue finale.
babaoreally: I would guess Indiana goes 5-7 this sesaon. I think they will need to win 3 games in conference to make a bowl. IU tends to drop a non-con game that they shouldn't. Western Kentucky isn't Alabama, but their MO is similar to Indiana: score a bunch of points and give up a bunch of points. They're the best bet to beat IU in the non-con.
DJ Carver: I think Indiana finds a way to derp a non-con game, so going 3-1 they'll need to go 3-5 in the conference. Given that schedules are repeats of last year... I'm not sure where they get those three wins. Everyone is saying Maryland? Rutgers? Maryland lost a bunch of seniors, but on offense the attrition was at WR where they were deepest, and losing CJ Brown might be addition by subtraction. Rutgers? Maybe. Iowa is surely worse so if they can beat Purdue, Rutgers, and Iowa then there it is.
Jesse Collins: Okay, my question, and it was a bit leading, right? Anyhow, I see the non-cons as must wins for Indiana to go bowling. I realize that there is a good chance they could manage three conference wins, but that might be asking too much for a team that struggles on defense and if you look at the numbers, wasn't exactly great on offense. Go 4-0, and you've got my attention. Otherwise? I just don't see this season securing more than four wins.
image via Williams Sonoma (link in the recipe)
Salad - Peach, Arugula, and Goat Cheese Salad: In honor of Indiana's most frequented bowl - the Peach Bowl (1988/1990)
Indiana’s calling card has been offense. Since his times at Oklahoma, we’ve seen his ability to spread out the field and exploit defensive weaknesses. While the numbers didn’t always add up last year, some of that could be attributed to Nate Sudfeld’s injury. With him back, can the Hoosiers take advantage or will the loss of pretty much every other skill player - Tevin Coleman, especially - be their doom? Or rather, do you see any way where this ends up being a step forward for the offense or will we see significant growing pains?
AK: If IU hadn't won the Blazer lottery with Jordan Howard, Coleman's loss would be a much bigger problem. But the thing is, RBs are probably the easiest players to plug-and-play with without much need for development or acclimation, so Howard will probably be good to go from opening kickoff. Wilson has a good enough track record on offense, and a good enough QB coming back, for me to assume the offense will be alright, if not as explosive as when Coleman was doing his thing alongside a functional pass game.
The big caveat there, of course, is if anything happens to Sudfeld. One expects the Hoosiers will be a bit better prepared this time around, but Sudfeld's a senior, man. Someone else has to show that they're able to play the position at some point.
C4B: The biggest key for Indiana will be getting Nate Sudfeld in sync with the receiving corps. Even in the 6 games he did play in 2014, he was struggling at times to find open receivers. With most of the same group back (save for Shane Wynn), there shouldn't be any reason to have a repeat of last year, as long as the receivers have figured out why they dropped so many passes.
GF3: One step forward, two steps back. Did Indiana steal Dudek from Illinois? Illinois doesn't deserve him anyway. Oh, he's injured? The people rest, your honor. Sudfeld will be throwing to whom, exactly?
LPW: Indiana’s offense probably depends on the running back to succeed Tevin Coleman, presumably UAB transfer Jordan Howard. Sudfield back is huge too, which should take pressure off of Howard. Also, I’m hearing good things about their offensive line, especially left tackle Jason Spriggs, who’s getting some NFL buzz.
TS: I think that at this point you can count on Indiana to score points, they'll find some decent receivers and getting Sudfeld back is huge. Jordan Howard looked good at UAB in the 5 minutes of UAB football I accidentally watched last year, although he's no Tevin Coleman. Getting Sudfeld back might be the single biggest roster improvement any B1G team makes. The offense will score but that's not why the Hoosiers have been historically awful anyway...
MNW: Indiana will reload and go through some growing pains, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Hoosiers show up by the Western Kentucky game with their usual high-octane attack. Of course, that means WKU will win 48-45, but hey, it could set up Indiana nicely for the regular season. I also like their odds against an ungood Wake Forest team, but again, you never know.
AY: We'll almost certainly see a step forward from the Zander Diamont situation, and the running game should come close to what it was thanks to the import of Howard. I think the most important thing for this offense to do will be to control the ball. With the way Indiana has played defense in recent years, the key will be keeping that weaker unit off the field. And maybe get Christian Hackenberg to throw another pick six their way.
baba: I think the offense will go back to being more passing based, after relying on the run last season. I expect that the offense will be good against bad defenses, but have trouble when faced with better competition. Overall the offense will be a little worse than it was before Sudfeld got hurt last year.
MJ: Things don’t bode well for the Hoosier offense in 2015 and it isn’t just because of Tevin Coleman. Until Coleman, the Hoosiers didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher under Kevin Wilson. It was guys like Latimer and Hughes who usually carried the load. What I’m trying to say is that IU has primarily been a passing team under Wilson and they just lost their two leading wide-receivers in Wynn and Stoner. Cobbs seems like the type of guy who will be IU’s next leading wide-receiver and it helps that Sudfeld has so much experience…but what else do they have? Growing pains to say the least.
DJ: I think Indiana, even with Sudfeld back, sees a lot of growing pains due to the loss of Coleman. Coleman gave them the running attack they needed to make defenses guess what they were running. If they can't replace that, they become much easier to defend against.
JC: I'm with Mike on this one. Indiana's offense wasn't exactly a juggernaut last season and when I looked up returning starters, I realized that even with a healthy Sudfeld - and a good line - there's only so much proven talent to go around. I think what will do Indiana in this year is not being able to control the ball long enough on offense to keep its pretty rough defense off the field.
Side Dish - Copper Kettle Apple Butter on All American Cornbread in honor of Indiana's appearance in the 1991 Copper Bowl and 1986 All American Bowl
Indiana’s anti-calling card has been its defense. Remember that part where we talked about the anemic Purdue offense? Well, Indiana’s defense felt like that at times. In conference, this team allowed an almost surreal 6.36 yards per play. Teams just passed the ball all over them with Indiana allowing 24 passing TDs. For comparison’s sake, Penn State allowed 10 passing TDs last season. During conference play, the Hoosiers allowed 7.7 YPA. This was just a sieve of a defense in the pass game with the run game defense only marginally better. Which, again, we’ve been here before and had this conversation many times. Can DCs Brian Knorr and William Inge do anything to get this team to even average? Moreover, at this point, what should Hoosier fans be happy with defensively?
AK: Who knows, man. The most certain solution would be to shell out for a big-time, proven DC with the recruiting chops to get what he needs right away, but good luck outbidding programs like Auburn for dudes like Will Muschamp. The talent level on that side of the ball has theoretically improved, and there are some nice-looking individual players, but it really feels like they just don't know how to stop B1G-caliber offenses. Points yielded by the Hoosier defense in losses last year: 45, 37, 45, 56, 34, 13, 45, 42. Points yielded in wins: 10, 27, 24, 16. So with the Penn State strugglefight exception (the 13-pointer), the line Hoosier fans should arbitrarily want to hit would be somewhere between 27 and 34 PPG.
C4B: The thing is, last year's defense was a step up from the year before. We did lose a couple of playmakers in the secondary to graduation, so finding their replacements will be very important. If the defense can consistently hold opponents under 400-500 yards (which sounds like it shouldn't be a big task, but again, IU defense), that might actually be good enough. We can always hope to do better, but right now, average would be a major step forward.
GF3: That defense held OSU at bay for long stretches of the game, as Jesse knows. He witnessed me losing my mind in the stands in Lincoln as the game in Columbus unfolded. They should frankly be happy with progress of any type.
[Ed Note: True story, GF3 was going crazy watching the gameday thread of the OSU-Indiana game. It was hilarious. Then Minnesota beat Nebraska... Less hilarious. -JC]
LPW: I think Indiana should just say screw it on defense and just focus on outscoring people. I’m not sure anyone can solve this riddle, but if they can, more power to them.
GF: The Indiana defensive scheme has never been the issue, because the normal B1G football fan just knows that if you want to run the ball against Indiana, you can...And if instead you prefer to throw the ball, that's probably an option too. So, athletes, please let more athletes come to Indiana and play defense.
TS: I'm just mad that Melvin Gordon didn't get to run all over this defense last year. Goodbye single season rushing record. Anyway, they only have 5 starters back from a typical Hoosier defense, although I've heard the recruiting on that side of the ball has been better the last couple of years. I guess we're about to find out.
MNW: I honestly don't know. Hire a DII HC who's been super-successful at coaching defense, then see if you can convince him to take a slight drop in pay to have the chance at making it at DI? I guess that was kinda Inge's road to Indiana. I don't actually know. Maybe throw more darts at the wall and see what happens.
AY: There are a number of ways to hide a bad defense, but it has to start with stopping the run. If Indiana can do that, they can sit back in a zone and hope the opposing quarterback makes mistakes while playing keep away on offense. If not, the Hoosiers might have to resort to winning a bunch of shootouts. Either way, this team needs an influx of defensive talent to match the hidden gems they've managed to find on offense.
MJ: Some concerning stats. The Hoosiers gave up more than 30 points in seven games last season. They gave up 40 points in five games, including 45 to Bowling Green, Iowa and Rutgers. They gave up 3,000 passing yards and allowed 251 passing yards per game. They also allowed 24 passing touchdowns. NOT. GOOD. If there’s any positive is that they return 7 starters on defense including All-Big Ten honorable mention CB Antonio Allen. Who else? No idea. If the Hoosiers could at least improve their passing defense and finish in the MIDDLE of the Big Ten and not dead last in nearly every category that would be an obvious improvement.
DJ: So, uh, Indiana has defense? They are losing a ton of starters, but is that a bad thing? Indiana's defense was putrid, so losing starters might be addition by subtraction. Getting them to average? I feel like they just have to try at this point, which it didn't appear they did much of.
JC: Indiana, making Nebraska look decent by comparison on defense since we got here...
Main Dish - Holiday Turkey with Independence Day Potato Salad and a Liberty Cocktail: Why yes, this is a stretch, but in honor of the 1979 Holiday Bowl, 1988 Liberty Bowl, and 1993 Independence Bowl
2015 marks the fourth year for Kevin Wilson at Indiana, and while we’ve discussed the difficulties of being ‘on the cusp’ of stardom, it just feels like this might not work out. As always with teams that gravitate towards the bottom of the standings, there is a fine line between, "needs time" and "this team sucks". Sure we’ve discussed what it takes to get to a bowl, but is that what Wilson needs to do to stay around a little longer? Is it recruiting? How about not being horrible at defense?
AK: You're barking up the wrong tree vis-a-vis what Wilson needs to do to stay. By IU standards, I'm under the impression his recruiting is actually pretty good. From the outside, Indiana football has been historically putrid enough that I'd think an entertaining team which is generally competitive and beats Purdue sometimes would be enough. And, last year's post-Sudfeld injury meltdown excepted, Wilson's IU teams have generally been those things. That's not to say Hoosier fans can't or shouldn't hope for better, though, especially in terms of concrete results. Like, really, a bowl shouldn't be that hard to pull off, there's 42 of them now. The perennial defensive issues are why I don't think IU will ever win anything significant, but they've had some offenses good enough to win shootouts in Wilson's time, and probably would have last year if Sudfeld had stayed healthy.
C4B: You realize Indiana has been to 9 bowl games EVER, right? If Wilson can consistently go 6-6 or better, he'll have a job at Indiana for a good long time. He's bringing in some of the best recruiting classes in IUFB history, so yeah, it's really down to making the defense not utterly awful and taking us to the postseason occasionally.
GF3: I guess I'll go the sentimental (philosophical) route on this one. I feel, and have for awhile, that Terry Hoeppner was the man for that program. Their last bowl team was one he built (though he did not get to see their successes). He was taken too soon and I don't know that things will ever recover in Bloomington. Or at least not for a longer time than it's been. His death was a cold, cruel blow to a program in need of a hero and a leader. I think Wilson may be able to turn it around in due time, but they're asking a man to bail out Noah's ark with a colander.
LPW: I think I read somewhere that Fred Glass was willing to work with Kevin Wilson for seven years, but I’m not sure how long that theory can hold give that Indiana had four coaches in the past decade (RIP Terry Hoeppner), and was willing to part with one (Gerry DiNardo) after three years. Like I said last week, Indiana needs to win more games/make a bowl/ or lose by close margins instead of getting blown out. Kevin Wilson needs to sell players on building a program in Bloomington.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: I honestly believe that Kevin Wilson will win a conference coach of the year in the next 5 years or so. If you were to hold me to it, I'd probably say at Kansas State in 5 years. There's just no place to hide in the B1G anymore if your school isn't committed to football, and a big part of being committed is cobbling together something that resembles a defense.
GF: I like the Hoeppner discussion. He brought emotion to a program that struggles mightily with apathy and people showing up to watch the game. So obviously 6-6 keeps Wilson in the game, but why would he want to stick around if that's the peak? Go be an OC for the Dolphins or something. The real win for Wilson would be to get people to care about the program, feel it in their soul. 6-6 doesn't do that. Inspiring players/stories/wins does that.
TS: Make a bowl. Period. That probably includes the defense not being horribad, but that's the bottom line. Bowl or bust.
MNW: You get the feeling it's bowl game or bust for Wilson this season. And I don't give a shit beyond that.
AY: Like all struggling programs, I encourage Indiana to be patient with its head coach, especially coming off a season in which he had to play Diamont at quarterback. Just like with Penn State basketball, Indiana football isn't going to be built up overnight unless the program invests in a big name head coach. Barring that, sticking with Wilson is necessary to him getting comfortable and building a winning culture, which leads to better recruits. Just look at Pat Chambers and PSU basketball. Sure, we've stunk so far under his tenure, but the players like him and he's got a historically good class coming in. That's thanks to the patience of the athletic department.
baba: If Wilson can consistently hover around 5-7 or 6-6, I think he'll stay on for a few more years. His recruiting classes are great by IU standards, so it seems like he should have some time to see how they work out on the field.
MJ: Defense. I never thought Kevin Wilson was going to work because he has no idea what he’s doing on defense. Nothing has changed over the years. The Hoosiers have brought in some impressive skill position players over the years (I hate you James Hardy) but where’s the defensive star-power? They need defense. They NEED it.
DJ: I think Kevin Wilson needs to do two of these things to stay, preferably making a bowl and bringing in a better recruiting class on defense. Wilson has shown that the offense can be one of the top in the league, but defense is what is holding them back. If they can power their way to a bowl on offense and recruit better on defense, he stays.
Dessert - Rose Water Shortbread Cookies in honor of Indiana's lone Rose Bowl berth in 1968
Indiana is well known for its newish helmets introduced in 2014, especially the chrome candystripes. While very distinctive, there’s something ridiculous about chrome candystriped helmets, right? Right. Anyhow, imagine your team is sponsored by Adidas and anything horribad is in play. What would you want on your helmet?
AK: I want a graphic of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan slapping the state of whatever school we happen to be playing when the helmets debut. Also, I want facemasks designed to look like Leonidas' beard from 300 since it seems stuff from that movie is just what we do, now and forever.
C4B: The chromestripes are amazing. That said, I do really like the state flag helmets we have as well, even if it looks kinda weird seeing the normally blue and yellow Indiana state flag in cream and crimson. But as long as the university never brings back Cam Cameron's non-interlocking IU logo, I think we'll be happy with just about anything else.
InsertName: /thanks Jobu that Minnesota is a Nike school
GF3: One million Buckeye stickers. Because haters gonna hate, and ain'ters gonna ain't. Scoreboard, chumps. We'll even give some to PSU so their unis don't look like they came from Big Lots or a junior high school.
LPW: The only thing I want on my helmet is the Sculpted N. I dont like the N-Cat or just the Cathead. The only bad thing Adidas did when we had them as a supplier was put us in silver helmets the last time I believe we went all-purple.
WSR: If we must be tormented by Adidas, there's only one thing they can do with the helmets: go find the basement that Angry Goldy is locked in, put him on the helmet, and have him chasing children.
TS: I refuse to discuss the crimes against humanity that the Adidas design department has committed and as a Nebraska fan you should feel bad for even asking such a question. Thank God Wisconsin is switching to Under Armour. I would love to see a helmet with Paul Bunyan's Axe, the Heartland Trophy, and the Freedom Trophy on it because those helmets being on the field will be the closest Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska have gotten to actually having those trophies in recent history (although Minnesota's last win is almost ancient history) or the near future.
MNW: We had Adidas, and thankfully besides one silver endeavor they never fucked with our helmets (to my memory). I think a throwback to the old "NU" would be kind of cool, but the purple helmets are a good look.
AY: A logo on the Penn State helmet would be sweet.
baba: The moon.
MJ:Simple. [text to link]
DJ: Do you all really want the Maryland guy answering this question?
JC: If I had it my way, we'd just go all-in on everything corn. Our helmets would be a shiny gold color with that nasty corn gradient and we'd have like, a corn cob pipe smoking Herbie on the helmet looking like he might be on drugs. I'd love that helmet and would buy a replica for my office.