Penn State returns home on Saturday, and hopes to bounce back from last week's officiating embarrassment by putting the hurting on a resilient Indiana squad. So, as always, we reached out to the foremost authority on the Lions' opposition, and our friends at The Crimson Quarry are just that. Thanks to John M. for lending a helping hand in enlightening us about Penn State's opposition.
So thanks a ton, gang, and remember to check out The Crimson Quarry all season long to stay up to date on the Hoosiers; and be sure to check out what I had to say when they put me on the hot seat.
Black Shoe Diaries: Was last week the biggest game in Indiana football history? How much did the Hoosier faithful get behind this team, or were they really just waiting for basketball season to start?
The Crimson Quarry: Oh, give us a little credit. Our football history is sparse but not empty. It only happens once a generation or less, but we have had teams that legitimately contended for the conference, not just based on the NCAA sanctions imposed on division rivals. It was, however, IU's most important opportunity since 1993, when IU was 7-1/4-1 for its first trip to State College and ultimately lost 38-31. I think IU fans have been reasonably behind this team. Attendance has been decent, but it was disappointing to see IU be so uncompetitive in a game that was receiving a good deal of hype. It was a missed opportunity, and even a competitive loss would have been much better for the program than 62-14.
BSD: Before Saturday, all of Indiana's losses had been the "heartbreaking/incredibly hard-fought" category. Why had this team had so much trouble getting over the hump?
TMQ: I really think it is youth, for the most part. This remains one of the youngest teams in FBS and the defense remains pretty green. I don't know if that's the only thing, but I have to think it's a factor. I think it's hard to put all of IU's losses in the same category except that other than Wisconsin they all have been close. The Ball State and Navy games were games IU should have won and simply gave away late in the fourth quarter. The Michigan State and Ohio State games were games in which the Hoosiers overachieved, but it wasn't quite enough. I'm hopeful that having been in such situations makes it easier for these players to finish such games as they mature.
BSD:. Indiana runs a hurry up offense that might be the fastest I've seen in college football this season. How does it differ from the spread offenses we've seen teams like Purdue run, that Penn State had success defending?
TMQ: I'm not sure I can break down the differences between the IU offense and those of your other opponents, but as you note, the IU offense's distinguishing characteristic is its speed. IU runs no huddle all the time and runs to the line of scrimmage. IU has a wide array of weapons at WR and tight end, and so that has allowed IU to keep personnel fresh. It's not an unstoppable offense by any stretch, but it is capable of putting a defense off balance. One negative aspect, of course, is that it isn't an offense designed for running the clock or keeping the defense off the field for long stretches.
BSD: Although the Hoosiers' defense has been pretty porous, it's hard to find anyone who has anything but positive words for Indiana's two defensive tackles. How disruptive can they be?
TMQ: Well, not disruptive enough to the Wisconsin rushing game, obviously, but they both are very good. Adam Replogle, in particular, seems to be everywhere. They are tied for the team lead in sacks and have been a big part of IU's mini-resurgence in Big Ten play. Linebacker David Cooper and safety Greg Heban are players to watch as well.
BSD: How do you see Saturday's game shaping up? After the loss to Wisconsin, does Indiana have much to play for anymore?
TMQ: I disagree that IU has "little left to play for." IU is 4-6 and a 17-point underdog Saturday, but despite the long odds, if IU does somehow pull the upset on Saturday, then IU will be playing Purdue for a chance to go to a bowl game. I know it's an unlikely scenario, but I do expect the team to treat the game as if it matters, because it does matter. What worries me is that the Wisconsin game may have been an indicator that this inexperienced team is running out of gas, particularly when faced with a significantly more talented opponent. Sometimes, that can't be helped, and I won't necessarily regard a lopsided Penn State win as an indication that the team has let up. I guess that's a long-winded way of saying that I really don't have a feel for this one.
Thanks again, John, and remember to read The Crimson Quarry!