Back in grade school, at least in my schools, we had our school year separated into semesters and “9 week” sections. I put 9 weeks in quotations because only two of the four 9 week grading intervals were actually 9 weeks long. It’s a whole thing. Bottom line is that each 9 weeks, the grades reset back to 0 for most classes and we began again. The concept is dumb, so I’m calling them progress reports.
Upon reflecting on ways to get more Indiana content during my run last week, I wanted to try and give the Indiana Hoosiers a score on how these first three games have gone. That was before I had my soul drained against Cincinnati, but I’ll save the judgement and the grades for below. Judging by the way things are going, we just might only get 12 games total this year also, so I might be on basketball only duty come December. Anyways, since we are officially through the first 25% of the season, I thought it would be a good exercise to grade the Indiana Hoosier performance to this point. Let’s see how much I can torture myself.
Game – Score – Grade
@Iowa Hawkeyes – 34-6 – C- (1.7)
Some may think this game deserves as F. I disagree. I whole heartily feel it is not a complete failure. I consider 17 of the Iowa 34 points to be the fault of the offense. There were two pick sixes. Anytime you can hold a top 20 team to 20 points or less as a defense, that’s not a bad effort. It’s honestly quite good. It wasn’t good enough to make the score respectable, but it was good enough to prevent an outright failure.
Offense – F (0.0) : Two pick sixes, three interceptions total. No touchdowns. Bad offensive line play. Bad playcalling. There’s literally nothing else to say. Fail.
Defense – B (3.0) : The defense held Iowa to at most 20 points total. Sure there was the first long touchdown run, but they had the lid on the Iowa offense after that point. Pretty good effort and got a couple takeaways. B.
Special Teams – C (2.0) : While special teams had some bonehead plays and points, they were 2/2 on field goals. Punting was rough. Kick off had a penalty. That’s good enough for a C.
Idaho Vandals – 56 – 14 – B+ (3.3)
It was an FCS school, and despite two good drives from Idaho, the game was wrapped up pretty early. Things seemed okay, but that offensive line didn’t look great still. Penix appeared to be okay at this point. Good enough for a win.
Offense – B (3.0) : Offensive line was still not good here. They were passable vs an FCS school. Penix did appear more stable and more comfortable. The playcalling seemed more aggressive. Stephen Carr looked really good. Good enough for a B, but it was hard to tell how solid this performance really was because the special teams kept giving Indiana short fields.
Defense – B (3.0) : Defense held an FCS team to 14 points. There’s not a lot to go on here other than the two drives for touchdowns. That prevents a straight up B+ or A performance, so B for being good but not great.
Special Teams – A+ (4.0) : Blocked punts. Punt returns. Kick off returns. Great game for these guys. A+ effort on this front.
Cincinnati Bearcats – 38 – 24 – C (2.0)
It’s so hard to rate this game. On one hand, the defense was great for 25 minutes of a 30 minute half. On the other hand, they gave up 10 points in 5 minutes. The offense seemed good enough to win and competent at times, but that line and the decision making of Mike Penix sucked. The special teams made their field goal but gave up a punt return touchdown. Ugh.
Offense – C- (1.7) : It’s really such a shitshow on that side of the ball right now. Line was bad. I actually appreciated the playcalling much more. I liked the aggressive go for it on 4th down, though I hated the play and execution. It is what it is. The turnovers though. Man. The turnovers killed this team. They don’t get a D because they put up so many points, but it’s close man. It’s close.
Defense – B- (2.7) : The defense was, again, put in a few tough spots by their offense. They did play good enough to win for the majority of this game. Losing McFadden to that bullshit targeting call (fight me) really changed the game. Even after that, the defense gave the Hoosiers every opportunity to win. That’s really all you can do. B- because the first half was relatively impressive.
Special Teams – C - (1.7) : Chuck Campbell made his FG. The punter from down unda’ bombed his first punt, but then proceeded to regress the rest of the game. You gave up a punt return touchdown. Average performance overall. C.
Overall Grade : C+ (2.3)
Causes for Concern
1) Mike Penix
Look, I see the tweets from Osterman and I listened to Crimson Cast. I get that many, many people in this space are trying to tell us that Tuttle isn’t any better than Penix and screaming for a benching is dumb, useless, and possibly classless. Well my retort is that if you don’t want to hear the calls for benching, then go out and do something positive. Mike Penix has only looked decent, not good, against inferior competition this season. His decision making is poor. He’s not helped out by the number two item on this list, but come on. Many people call the quarterback position one of the toughest positions in sports. This team has the talent to be a top 25 team. That won’t happen until there is a quarterback at helm that can carry them there or at least not be the reason they lose the game. He’s been a shackle on this team so far this year, but he has the talent to be the guy. Let’s see what happens.
2) Offensive Line
This line stinks. It’s bad. They do literally nothing for Penix and they make Carr make his own holes. This section will be brief because I’m not sure how to fix that. Maybe roll the pocket? I dunno. Let’s see if they improve over the next 3 games.
3) Coaching Decisions
This is a strange thing to put here, isn’t it. I’m not calling Tom Allen a bad coach, but I’m damn sure going to second guess some of the strategy he has employed this season. The use of timeouts is unbearable. The triple timeout at Iowa was embarrassing. Having to call timeout literally minutes into the second half in BOTH THE CINCY AND IOWA GAMES was shameful.
Nick Sheridan is the only person who seems to be improving a little. He’s shackled by the offensive line, but the aggressiveness was nice to see in the UC game. I can live with not getting it on 4th down because I like it. I understand if some of you don’t. I’d rather be the aggressor than the defender in most instances.
Charlton Warren has done a fantastic job to this point. He is loaded with 2 All Americans and a ton of talent on that side of the ball. That said, just 5 sacks all season? That’s not great. The defense has shown it can cover, but it cannot get to the QB. That needs to change.
Updated Projected Win Total
Best Case: 9-3
The best case, in my opinion, is a 9-3 finish with an away loss at Penn State. I think that Indiana is going to get obliterated in that game. I also think that Ohio State has a lot of cracks, and a well timed good game could get the Bucks at home.
Worst Case: 4-8
Honestly, I look at this schedule and I see no easy wins to this point. It is brutal man. Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota, Ohio State. You need to win 4. Can you spot the 4 to get to a bowl if Indiana continues to struggle on offense? I can’t. Surely they’ll get one or two, but damn. It gets tight in a hurry.
In closing, Indiana can still right the ship. The pieces are all there. The defense is good. The playmakers are there, but they just need something to rally around. Here’s hoping that a win at WKU is what the doctor ordered.