Welcome to Indiana week here at OffTackleEmpire! Pull up a chair and have a beer from Bloomington Brewing in Bloomington Indiana as we have a friendly chat about the Hoosiers.
I (LPW) have always had a soft spot for Indiana. The Hoosiers have a similar baleful football history like my Wildcats, and yet, they’ve been an exciting team to watch under Kevin Wilson, the former Northwestern and Oklahoma offensive coordinator.
You have to hear it to believe it: Wilson was mad as hell, and he wasn’t going to let the Hoosiers be the butt of jokes any more:
Wilson’s record on the field showed steady progress, from an 1-11 first season to last season’s 6-7 (4-5 in conference) and two bowl appearances. More importantly, Wilson’s teams could turn it on and play ball at times. He also won the Old Oaken Bucket his last four years. And also took home the Ol’ Brass Spittoon!
They took Michigan to the wall in 2015 and also in that same year almost defeated defending national championship Ohio State if there wasn’t a botched snap to fan favorite internet sensation Zander Diamont.
I thought this year Wilson would increase his win potential even more and bring the Hoosiers to a bowl win, but alas, it was not to be. He resigned last year after a difference of opinion with AD Fred Glass.
Long Story short: Can Indiana head coach Tom Allen continue on Wilson’s trajectory to lead the Hoosiers to a bowl win? What will it take for Indiana to reach the heights that Purdue and Northwestern have attained in the past 20-25 years (Big Ten championships and Rose Bowl appearances)?
LPW: I really don’t know much about Tom Allen. He hasn’t been a head coach since 2005-2006 at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Everyone’s gotta get a chance somewhere. Good luck. As for winning the division and later the conference, the Hoosiers have to recruit, like how Candystripes is alluding to below. Wilson definitely pulled in some quality players, especially linemen like Jason Spriggs, Running backs like Jordan Howard and Tevin Coleman and quarterbacks like Nate Sudfield. Also, they need to follow the approach that legendary college football coach Bill Snyder has espoused: get a little better every day.
Candystripes: I have full confidence in Tom Allen to keep Indiana on its current level for at least a year or two. That said, to reach the “heights” of Purdue and Northwestern (a sentence that feels like damning with faint praise at its best), not only does Indiana have to somehow continue to win consistently in the non-con and against the bottom half of the Big Ten East, they’re going to have to start finishing games against the middle to top of the conference and pulling in recruits that those teams want as well. It’s great if you can consistently grab guys from the Minnesotas and Kentuckys of the world, but if you in any way want to seriously consider traveling to Pasadena, you have to steal guys that Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State all want, and you have to keep doing it until recruits see that talent is willing to come to Bloomington. Play to the level you want to recruit, and eventually the prophecy fulfills itself.
GF3: Not in the near term. They lost their blue chip lineman and their seasoned running back. The QB situation is a guess at best in terms of improvement. To top it all off, the man who made the magic happen for the offense is now playing with TNT and gunpowder in Columbus. Nothing about that says “yeah they’ll be even better this year.” Realistically I can see Indiana swapping ends...becoming the defensive team with no offense. Like Iowa, but with better uniforms.
Townie: Nope. I’d run down specifics, but I think GF3 is spot on. The new coaching staff has fewer assets this year AND get past the ripples of Wilson’s dismissal. No matter what the public face is, losing Wilson is a crusher. I thought Indiana was moving in the right direction last year.
This year is going to be MSU 2016 levels of bad.
Having the head coach dismissed after a legal review of the program is a morale destroyer. It makes everything harder. Just look at their recruiting class in 2017. It came in at 61st in the country, behind everyone in the B1G except Purdue (at 69th...).
Sorry Hoosiers, it’s going to be a long season.
BRT: I don't see them winning the conference or going to that overrated Pasadena event anytime soon, but I don't know that this season will be "MSU 2016" bad. (Side note: how the mighty have fallen, Spartans—you are now the descriptor of choice for ineptitude.) There are some likely bad losses in there, but aside from Wisky, a November doesn't get a lot more favorable than that. At a minimum, it should mean Indiana finishes on a high note, but it also means that if they can squeeze three wins out of the rest of the pre-November schedule (certainly possible), they've got the easiest possible road in the conference to get to six.