Cheeseburger in Paradise opened its first restaurant in Indianapolis in 2002. At various times, others were open in the state (including one in Bloomington), but now, only that original location remains in Indiana. Why it's part of the Potluck: For Indiana football fans, returning to the postseason felt like Paradise.
For the first time in what feels like forever (but was only 8 years), Indiana went bowling in 2015. Setting aside what may or may not have happened in that bowl game, any season that ends with a trip to the postseason has to be considered a good one for the Hoosiers, given that it was only their 10th trip ever. My question to you is, can Indiana keep this positive trend going for 2016, and why?
Andrew Kraszewski: Does the positive trend include an improvement on last year, or just matching 2015? The former should be possible, if only because most power-5 programs should have a shot at a bowl every year. But replacing NFL players at QB, LT, and RB is tough for most programs, and Indiana doesn't have the depth of most programs. Color me skeptical for an improvement, but this should finally be the year when IU's defense makes enough ground to cover for a less effective offense- and if the new QB is up to scratch, maybe Wilson's train to a heavyweight program is ahead of schedule.
Graham Filler: I love talking trends. In the B1G, you find success one of three ways:
1) Be a gigantic, legendary program with gobs of money
2) Find a "Shtick" that works and ride it (see, Wisconsin)
3) Find hidden gem recruits and pray for their health
Indiana is definitely not #1 and #3 as a long-term play. I see more of #2 for Kevin Wilson’s team, with the shtick being a super-charged offense, year after year. Let’s say you’re a super talented athlete who can’t quite find a spot at OSU or Michigan. Go to Indiana, develop for a year with no pressure and fanfare, explode onto the scene via the Wilson Spread catching balls and running reverses. Indiana could become a poor man’s Baylor…
Combine that "O" with some cupcake scheduling and voila! 6-7 wins per year.
MNWildcat: Indiana loses Nate Sudfeld to the Washington Rougedermis but should keep its high-flying attack going? Gets Northwestern, Nebraska, and Purdue on the crossover? Has a Wisconsin-level non-conference schedule? Plays Maryland and Rutgers? Yeah, I don't see a reason they can't at least get back to bowl eligibility. For Indiana right now, that seems to be the most important thing -- can they remain relevant year-to-year, not just a little story we all chuckle at when they play a 55-52 shootout with a MAC team (not losing to Ball State, by the way, would help)? Two consecutive seasons playing games into December, even if it's just up in Detroit or something, would go a long way toward pulling IU out of this weird mediocrity they occupy.
StewMonkey13: If by momentum you mean barely squeaking into a bowl? Yeah, I think it's possible. The B1G East does Indiana no favors, but a weak non-con, Purdue, Buttgers, and MD should be enough to at least get 4-5 wins. Run that slate, and there's your bowl. Even then there's still a decent chance to swipe a win or two from the rest of the slate (specifically jNW, UNL, and PSU). The big question is who's replacing Sudfeld (but for that, you'll have to wait for Wednesday).
alnamiasIV: As others have noted, does "positive trend" mean better than six wins and a bowl bid or does "positive trend" mean a repeat of last year? If it is the latter then no, IU is not winning more than six and is not improving on last year, the reason being so many pieces are missing from last year's offense. There is, of course, the possibility of seven starters returning for an improved defense, but at this point, there is no reason to think any Indiana coach can coach up a defense. So yeah, Indiana's not beating any of the big 3 in the East--that's three losses. Between Nebraska, Northwestern and Penn State, it could conceivably take one, but that's two more losses. Add in one more unexpected, unpredictable loss (hello Ball State, we salute you) and that's 6-6. That said, as regards a "positive trend" meaning status quo, there is also no reason why Indiana and all of Kevin Wilson's offensive smarts can't score enough points to beat at least six on the schedule.
Jesse Collins: It depends on what you see as a positive trend. Indiana had two conference wins, which was about the bellweather for this team for the past few years. I would argue that Indiana teams in the past were even better than last year’s iteration but you also faced multiple terrible teams - who you also beat. The outlier win is Western Kentucky who ended up going 12-2. So, I mean, it was awesome you made a bowl, but is fortunate scheduling a thing you can lean on? With only three non-conference games now, Indiana’s path to a bowl just got more difficult. Add to the mix the fact that the defense was still porous and allowed 509.5 yards per game and a massive 6.38 yards per play and you have a recipe for a regression (in that a regression is two conference wins and a worse overall record).
LincolnParkWildcat: I definitely think the Hoosiers will make some noise this year. Wilson might’ve finally gotten his groove going offensively, and hopefully the defense can return the favor. Seeing that Indiana team take the (then) defending National Champions to the wall (save for a botched snap) has turned me from someone who would casually dismiss the Hoosiers to someone who thinks they’ll be a much tougher out this year. They’ll definitely be bowling.
Thomas Speth: Sure they can. If they can replace Sudfeld. I mean rutger and Maryland are going to be very rutger and Maryland-y next year (i.e. not very good), and the non conference is manageable, so if they can find another win (cough Purdue cough) in there that's 6 already. Win the bowl game and there you have it, still treading upward.
Aaron Yorke: I'm really interested to see whether or not Indiana can make a repeat bowl trip in 2016. On one hand, the team is losing Nate Sudfeld, who was one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country last year with 8.7 yards per throw, 27 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. On the other, the Hoosiers suffered some tough close losses in 2015 (nail-biter vs. Ohio State, collapse at Rutgers, and double overtime vs. Michigan) but they still found a way to get to six wins. I don't think Zander Diamont is the answer at quarterback, but if one of the other options can at least partially fill Sudfeld's shoes and Indiana takes care of business again during the non-conference schedule, I can see another six- or seven-win season.