2008 BSD Big Ten Previews - Indiana Hoosiers

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2007 Recap

2007 Record: 7-6 (3-5)

The Hoosiers began the 2007 season with heavy hearts as they mourned the loss of their beloved Terry Hoeppner during the offseason. This blog predicted a total collapse after the emotional high of "Winning for Terry" wore off, but the Hoosiers proved me wrong. The Hoosiers battled under Hoeppner's "Play 13" motto all season long making it their goal to go to their first bowl game since 1993.

They appeared well on their way to easily qualifying for a bowl game after jumping out to a quick 3-0 record thanks to an easy out of conference schedule that included Indiana State, Western Michigan, and Akron. After starting the Big Ten schedule with a loss to Illinois they rattled off a win against Minnesota and their biggest win over Iowa since 1945. But then things got tough with three losses in a row to Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. After starting out 5-1 the Hoosiers found themselves at 5-4 and starting to wonder if playing 13 was going to happen.

But thank heavens for the MAC. Indiana easily defeated Ball State to reach bowl eligibility, but a loss to Northwestern the following week once again put their bowl chances in jeopardy. The led 24-3 against arch rival Purdue before the Boilermakers rallied to tie it up late in the game. With 30 seconds to go in the game kicker Austin Starr hit a 49 yard field goal to give the Hoosiers the win and cement their bowl position.

Of course getting to a bowl is one thing. Winning, or even putting up a good showing is another. Their trip the Insight Bowl was less than memorable after getting demolished by Oklahoma State 49-33.

Offense Preview

Offense Returns (7): QB-Kellen Lewis, RB-Marcus Thigpen, RB-Bryan Payton, WR-Andrew Means, WR-Ray Fisher, LG-Pete Saxon, LT-Rodger Saffold

Offense Loses(4): WR-James Hardy, C-Chris Benn, RT-Charlie Emerson, RG-Jonathan Sandberg,

Overview

The Indiana offense is simple to understand. As Kellen Lewis goes, so go the Hoosiers. You can talk about Beanie Wells, and Curtis Painter, and Arrelious Benn, but for my money Lewis is the best offensive player in the Big Ten. In 2007 he rushed for 736 yards and threw for 3043 ranking him #4 in the conference in total offense. If he played for Michigan or Ohio State he would be a preseason favorite for the Heisman trophy. He ran into some trouble in the spring getting suspended from the team, but apparently that's all behind him now.

Lewis led the team in rushing last year, and they will need him to do it again as the Hoosier running backs Marcus Thigpen and Bryan Payton are not very inspiring. The offensive line is also going into somewhat of a rebuilding year having to replace their center, right tackle, and right guard which will make things even more difficult.

A major reason for Lewis' success in the passing game was James Hardy who caught 79 passes for 1125 yards and 16 touchdowns. Now he's gone and Indiana has to replace that production. To make things worse, 6'3" would-be-freshman wide receiver Marquelo Suel failed to qualify, and James Bailey, who caught 26 passes for 268 yards, transferred out of the program this spring. The team will look to juniors Ray Fisher and Andrew Means as well as sophomore Terrance Turner to step up their games. But Lewis is going to have a lot fewer targets this year.

The Hoosiers, perhaps anticipating troubles in moving the ball, worked on instituting a no-huddle offense this spring with help from the Oregon Ducks and the Indianapolis Colts. The reports were that quarterback Ben Chappell did well in Lewis' absence. But everyone knows Lewis is the man now that he's back. The question is, can Lewis pick up the no-huddle offense before the season begins?

 

Defensive Preview

Defense Returns(7): DE-Jammie Kirlew, DT-Greg Brown, DE-Greg Middleton, LB-Geno Johnson, LB-Will Patterson, SS-Austin Thomas, FS-Nick Polk

Defense Loses(4): DT-Joe Kremer, MLB Adam McClurg, CB-Leslie Majors, CB-Tracy Porter

Overview

The 2007 Hoosier defense was not very impressive: #63 in rushing defense, #81 in passing defense, #69 in scoring defense, But one area they did do well in was sacks where they ranked #8 in the nation averaging 3.3 sacks per game. But 19 of their 42 team sacks came in the weak non-conference schedule and nine of them came against Iowa's depleted offensive line alone. The defensive line returns Greg Middleton (16 sacks) and only has to replace DT Joe Kramer and reserve DE Brian Faires. Expectations are high in Bloomington that this is going to be a good defensive line.


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The linebackers are pretty good with Patterson and Geno Johnson returning, but they will have to replace Adam McClurg and his 99 sacks in the middle. Junior Matt Mayberry appears to be the one stepping into the lineup at this point.

The Hoosiers will have to replace Leslie Majors and Tracy Porter, one of the better cornerback tandems in the league last year. Their replacements will be sophomore Adrian Burks and senior Christopher Phillips. I may be wrong, but I have a theory that when your new starter is a senior you are probably looking at a weak link on the team. It goes along with the theory that says "if he's so good, why didn't he start the first three years in the program?" But Austin Thomas and Nick Polk return as the safeties so they should be in good shape there.

 

Special Teams

The punting game will have to replace punter Michael Hines, who averaged a decent 39 yards per punt, and punt returner Tracy Porter who averaged an excellent 11.0 yards per return. The kick return game stays in tact with James Bailey and Marcus Thigpen even if they weren't that great. And kicker Austin Starr is solid having made 21-of-23 last year.

 

The Schedule

Date Opponent BSD Outlook
Aug 30 W. Kentucky Win
Sept 6 Murray State Win
Sept 13 Bye
Sept 20 Ball State Probable Win
Sept 27 Michigan State Probable Loss
Oct 4 @ Minnesota Toss Up
Oct 11 Iowa Probable Loss
Oct 18 @ Illinois Loss
Oct 25 Northwestern Toss Up
Nov 1 Central Michigan Probable Win
Nov 8 Wisconsin Loss
Nov 15 @ Penn State Loss
Nov 22 @ Purdue Probable Loss
Missing: Michigan and Ohio State

BSD Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 10. The out of conference schedule is a joke. They get a two only because they play in the Big Ten. Normally that's good enough to get you a three, but they miss Michigan and Ohio State this year, so yeah.

 

BSD's Outlook

Without James Hardy this offense is a one-trick pony. It's Kellen Lewis or nothing, and you need more than one weapon on offense in order to be competitive in this league. Big Ten defenses will key on Lewis in the running game, and Thigpen has yet to prove he's capable of taking any of the load off of him to this point. In the passing game the receivers look average and there aren't very many of them to go around. On defense the loss of McClurg is a big one, and the corners will not be as good as Majors and Porter were. The special teams unit should be pretty solid, but not amazing.

But everywhere you look on this team there is a lack of depth. No running backs, no wide receivers, no linebackers, no cornerbacks. I can see this team getting off to a fast start against the easy non-conference schedule, but they are going to get tired toward the end of the season. If the bye week was later in the season that would be a huge benefit to them, but it falls on September 13 just three weeks into the season.

I think they will win their four non-conference games, but finding two wins in the conference to go bowling is going to be tough. They are aided immensely by avoiding Michigan and Ohio State this year, but the best opportunities look like week 7 and week 10 against Minnesota and Northwestern. But personally, I don't think they will win either of those games. BSD predicts the Hoosiers will go 4-8. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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