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B1G 2020: Indiana Hoosiers Mocktail Party Preview

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Now featuring less required alcohol consumption than previous years! (Note: alcohol still recommended.)

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - Indiana v Tennessee
File this under “Things You Probably Won’t See This Year.” You decide why.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

This season should probably not be happening, and definitely not before spring if it must occur, but we’re gonna keep pretending that it will until it doesn’t. Got it? Cool, let’s do this.

Indiana Week is here! And for once, there’s an actual sense of positive momentum surrounding the Hoosiers, end of season mistake notwithstanding. So, grab your drink of choice, chug about half of it, then refill it and get ready to talk IU football!

2019: A Culmination of Luck and Skill

Tom Allen inherited the Indiana job under some less-than-pleasant circumstances, and when his first couple of teams failed to return to the postseason, there were certainly some who were prepared to move on to the next coach and likely repeat the vicious cycle of suck that Indiana is historically known for. And then a funny thing happened: Indiana finally figured out how to beat the teams they were supposed to. Not perfectly, and not as completely as you’d like to see (cut to Michigan State and Tennessee fans nodding), but on the whole, the teams that a middle of the pack Big Ten squad should beat were chalked up in the win column in 2019.

What changed? Well, for one, Coach Allen has been building a culture around the program. One full of positivity, and one concerned about trying to build everyone up. Something that his predecessor likely would not be credited with. While his words of motivation for the season were sometimes mocked by those outside of Bloomington, the team seemed to take them as a guide, and this was the first season where things began jelling early. For once, Indiana had the experience of playing in tough game situations, and knew how to grind them out when things looked dire.

While 2019 still wasn’t perfect, an 8-4 regular season was a welcome sign for a program where that level of success has been a rarity for most of the last three decades.

On Offense

Very firmly knocking on wood, barring injuries this is very much Michael Penix’s show. Jack Tuttle is likely the 2nd choice should he be necessary, but everyone who wants this team to succeed is expecting Penix to emerge as the starter. Running back will be the Stevie Scott and Sampson James show for the most part, and those two backs should provide highlights for years to come.

The wide receiver corps is once again led by seniors Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle, backed up by receiver and kick returner David Ellis, Miles Marshall, and a handful of redshirt juniors. At tight end, Peyton Hendershot and Matt Bjorson are the players most likely to see most of the action. Across the offensive line, returning starters Matthew Bedford, Caleb Jones, Harry Crider, and Mackenzie Nworah are joined by grad transfer Dylan Powell and Mike Katic, who will likely be battling it out for the left guard position, according to the most recent depth chart I could find.

On Defense

If you paid any attention to Indiana on defense last year, good news: You’re going to recognize a lot of these names. A front four of James Head, Jr., Michael Ziemba, Jerome Johnson, and Sio Nofoagatoto’a (whose name I copy-pasted and don’t feel sorry in the least about it), backed up by Alfred Bryant and Stanford transfer Jovan Swann; Micah McFadden, Cam Jones, and Marcelino Ball leading the linebacking corps with Bryant Fitzgerald waiting in the wings; Tiawan Mullen and Reese Taylor at cornerback, with Juwan Burgess, Raheem Layne, Devon Matthews, and Jamar Johnson all in the mix at safety. Everyone in the two deep is at least a redshirt freshman, with the vast majority of this side of the ball being upperclassmen. This might be the deepest Indiana has been on defense in the last decade. And of course, it had to happen this year of all years. But I digress.

Special Teams

For one last time, Haydon Whitehead will be doing the winning punting for the Hoosiers. Charles Campbell is expected to kick for points, while Jared Smolar (who apparently transferred from Rutgers, and I was today years old when I learned that) will likely continue to do kickoffs. The primary returners are pretty much the same group as last year: David Ellis, Whop Philyor, Reese Taylor, and Marcelino Ball.

What Does It All Mean?

That hopefully, the next time an Indiana Hoosiers football squad takes the field, it will be loaded with veteran experience and plenty of talent, and they’ll be looking to avenge a very dumb ending to last season.

Schedule as it currently stands

September 4: @Wisconsin

October 10: vs. Maryland

October 17: @Rutgers

October 24: vs. Michigan State

October 31: vs. Penn State

November 7: @Ohio State

November 14: vs. Illinois

November 21: @Michigan

November 28: vs. Purdue

Going to both Michigan and Ohio State in the same year is kind of rough, but if neither of them gets to have a crowd or anywhere near full capacity if they do get to have fans, those games move from likely losses to only maybe losses, so it’s not all bad.

Of course, all of this is theory at this point.

When Talking to Indiana fans, mention:

What a nice job Tom Allen is doing, how great it is that Indiana might finally be clawing out of the basement of the Big Ten, trophy games, being ranked in the AP Poll, how much better life would be if either Michigan or Ohio State would actually LOSE A DAMN GAME ONCE IN A WHILE

When Talking to Indiana fans, neglect to mention:

How obvious it was that Tennessee was going for an onside kick, any theories you may have about old gold and black being a more fashionable color combination than cream and crimson, the proximity to basketball season

B1G 2020 Schedule

Monday: The Preview (see above)

Tuesday: What’s New on the Coaching Tree

Wednesday: A Mike Penix Appreciation Post

Thursday: TBD

Friday: A Non-Zero Amount of Purdue Hate

All Week: Potlucks (or so I’ve been told)