From 1995 through 2014 Indiana Hoosiers football was 73-159. That is known, in the business world as, “not very good.” In fact, it’s possibly the worst in the B1G over that stretch of time. The only reason that may not be the case is because I haven’t actually looked that information up.
But seriously, Indiana sucked.
Then, out of the losing-est program in college football, some hope was born. From 2015-2020, Indiana football went 36-35. That’s not bad. In fact, Indiana football put back to back solid seasons together in 2019 and 2020. 8-5 and 6-2. That’s known, in the business, as “not bad.” It’s my belief that had the 2020 season schedule been allowed to play out, Indiana quite possibly would have won 9-10 games, perhaps 11. Instead, we got a 6-1 regular season and a faceplant in the Outback Bowl.
I say all this not to bring up the past but to illustrate that for the first time since the late 80’s and early 90’s, Indiana football had some momentum as a program. Momentum that led to Indiana being ranked 12th in the AP poll post 2020 season and ranked 17th going into 2021. Indiana returned a ton of talent from that 2020 team and added some great pieces in the staff room that looked like Indiana could actually challenge Ohio State for the B1G East. Hell, on opening night in the Ohio State vs Minnesota game, the commentators said as much. I wrote an entire preseason piece on how this would finally be the year that makes it all stick.
Well…fuck me, right?
What happened in 2021?
That’s the damn million dollar question isn’t it? Sure, we could chalk it up and just say that Indiana wasn’t very good. Honestly, I don’t believe that’s the case.
After a 6 seasons period where the Hoosiers stock looked to tick up, in 2021 the Indiana Hoosiers went 2-10. That’s the worst Hoosier season since the Bottom 10 gem of 2011 where the team went 1-11. It was quite a miserable year. The only 2021 wins were against Idaho and Western Kentucky. Might I add that a terrible decision to punt late in the game cost Western Kentucky that game, but I’m an Indiana writer so I’ll take all the wins we can get.
Honestly, after the first offensive possession I’m not certain we needed to watch the entire year. After allowing the coaching staff, players, and Indiana media to hype this team and fanbase up all offseason, Indiana went to Iowa to take on what appeared to be a midling Hawkeye team. After allowing a 50 yard touchdown run on the first defensive possession, Indiana proceeded to throw a pick 6 on the third play from scrimmage and never got closer than 11. In fact, Indiana threw another pick 6 and a third interception in the last two minutes of the first half that made the score at halftime 3-31.
That game started the major theme that would ultimately get Offensive Coordinator Nick Sheridan axed. Excluding the Maryland game, Indiana had 6 touchdowns in 8 conference games including 3 games with 0 touchdowns. For Indiana, the half of the answer to the question of “what happened?” is definitely that the offense was historically terrible.
The other half of that answer actually gets answered in a rather disappointing way. Going into the Maryland game, Indiana sat at 2-5. They pissed away a chance to upset number 10 Michigan State and also had a correctly called but terribly ruled targeting play and ill-timed fumble rob them of upsetting number 8 Cincinnati. In other words, Indiana was not dead yet and they still had room to land. Indiana proceeded to go into College Park and lose to drop to 2-6, which is where they officially called it a year. After a blistering 35-38 loss, Indiana would only hang 4 touchdowns in the final four games and allowed 29 (Michigan), 38 (Rutgers), 35 (Minnesota), and 44 points (Purdue). The second half of the answer to the question of “what happened” is that Tom Allen’s Indiana Hoosiers quit. They quit.
What to Expect in 2022
Honestly, I don’t know what to expect. After a stinker of a year, Indiana lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators. DC Charlton Warren left for North Carolina and Nick Sheridan was fired probably before the bus got back from West Lafayette. Indiana replaced Warren with Chad Wilt, the Minnesota D-Line coach. Allen replaced Sheridan with…*sigh*…Walt Bell, the former UMass coach.
I shit you not, you can’t make this up. Indiana also lost running backs coach Deland McCullough due to the Bell hire. That isn’t normally news, but Deland’s sons are currently committed to and playing for Indiana and are some of the highest recruits the Hoosiers have ever brought in. Therefore, it’s worth putting in the article.
Also, since fall camp of 2021, Indiana has lost 29 players to the transfer portal. That’s a lot. It’s also quite an interesting development from a program whose motto is “Love Each Other” and whose coach is a year removed from players yelling “play for this man” and “we love you” while running off the field during an interview.
If you sense a bit of tension when I discuss head coach Tom Allen this week, you’d be picking up on something. I quite frankly love this guy as a person. I think he’s a good man and I love to see him succeed. That said, over his tenure as the Indiana Hoosier coach, he’s shown repeatedly that he may not be quite the savvy leader or coach that he needs to be. After 6 years of moderate success from this program, one clunker of a season isn’t going to put him in danger of losing his job. It did, however, squander all leeway and enthusiasm this program earned over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Back to the question of what to expect, I do think that the expectation of this season is for the Hoosiers to finish 6-6, go to a shitty bowl and lose. That’s the expectation. When you look at the schedule, it seems fairly doable as well. It’s the inverse of last years schedule in fact. Instead of starting off with 6 games of ranked opponents, you’re getting Illinois, Idaho, WKU, and a well coached but clearly needs retooling Cincy.
Returning All-American Tiawan Mullen and adding his brother, along with stealing some SEC talent on the D line and retaining some other needed pieces, the Hoosiers should be good defensively. Defense is Tom Allen’s thing and even last year, the defense was good through 6 games, injuries and all.
The question mark will be on offense. What in the hell is going to go on there? Indiana did pretty well in the transfer portal, but quite possibly the weakest part of the Indiana team last year was the offensive line and the Hoosiers did FUCKING NOTHING to bolster that clunker of a position group. They didn’t even fire the coach whose crew killed Mike Penix’s career probably and got Jack Tuttle killed on more than one occasion. Indiana loses a host of WR talent though you could be forgiven for replacing talent with personnel.
So yeah, the expectation is 6-6 but I wouldn’t wager on it just yet.
Sept 2 – Illinois
September 10 – Idaho
September 17 – Western Kentucky
September 24 - @ Cincinnati
October 1 - @ Nebraska
October 8 – Michigan
October 15 – Maryland
October 22 - @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights
November 5 – Penn State
November 12 - @ Ohio State – L (Less to More)
November 19 - @ Michigan State Spartans
November 26 – Purdue – Old Oaken Bucket
Stay tuned all week to the glory that is Indiana football week. Or don’t. I can’t tell you how to live your life.