I have been doing these previews on Wednesdays, but since this week is Big Ten Media Days the site will be full of what updates I can post from work on Wednesday. That moves our final preview up to today.
As always, Purdue closes the regular season with Indiana. Purdue and Indiana have played the final game of the regular season every year since 1931 except for in 2001, when the September 11 attacks pushed the Purdue-Notre Dame and Indiana-Kentucky games to the end of the season. Rarely has it meant much in the Big Ten standings. Only in 1967 did it decide the Rose Bowl (and Purdue was ineligible having gone the previous season, so it was between Minnesota and Indiana). Only in 1979 and 2007 have both teams gone bowling after the game.
That could change in the coming seasons. As you'll see here, Indiana is not the typical Indiana football team we all love to beat. Kevin Wilson has at least the start of something with a decent offense. If they get any kind of a defense, IU could be downright dangerous.
2012 Record: 4-8, 2-6 Big Ten
Bowl result: None
Blog Representation: Crimson Quarry
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 72-37-6
Last Purdue win: 11/24/2012 at Purdue 56-35
Last Indiana win: 11/27/2010 at Purdue 34-31 OT
Last Season for the Hoosiers
On the surface it was your typical season for Indiana, as the Hoosiers were near the bottom of the Big Ten, finished just 2-6 in the league, and were 4-8 overall. That does not tell the full story, however. Led by a backup quarterback, Indiana had the 17th best passing offense nationally at 311 yards per game. The offense put up almost 31 points per game and was pretty close to getting Indiana into a bowl game.
A field goal by Steven Schott as time expired gave Ball State a 41-39 win over IU just 49 seconds after the Hoosiers pulled ahead. A touchdown pass by Navy's Matt Aiken with 2:02 left gave the Midshipmen a 31-30 win in mid-October. Those two losses denied IU a bowl game, but the Hoosiers were also effective in conference play.
With the help of some late scores Indiana only lost to Ohio State 52-49. Michigan State, who had an awful offense, won a close 31-27 game in Bloomington. The game at Purdue was a back-and-forth affair that wasn't decided until the fourth quarter.
It was pretty much the case of Indiana being an all-offense, no-defense team. They can score 35 points on almost anyone, but they struggled to keep teams under 36. That recipe can produce some entertaining football, and this year it could mean a very fast start. If the Hoosiers get even a modicum of improvement from their defense they have a puncher's chance to win nine of their first ten games.
No, that is not a typo. They start with five home games against Indiana State, Navy, Bowling Green, Missouri, and a Penn State team starting a true freshman at quarterback. Winning at Michigan State, where the Spartans struggle offensively, is possible with some breaks, and getting Minnesota and Illinois at home after going to Michigan means that Indiana may have a bowl game locked up by the time the final three games come around. At the very least their offense is good enough to win five of those games and make the Bucket Game a "Winner Goes To Detroit" possibility.
Indiana was led by Cameron Coffman last year, who threw for 2,734 yards and 15 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, but he is probably not even the best option to lead the attack. Tre Roberson started the first two games before suffering a broken leg and missing the rest of the season. He had completed 66% of his passes for 368 yards and two scores before the injury, but had 133 yards on the ground and three scores. He was able to receive a medical redshirt and therefore is still a sophomore eligibility-wise.
In 2011 Roberson had 937 yards passing and three scores in nine games and was starting by the end of the year. He also rushed for 426 yards and two more scores. Roberson should be one of the league's better dual-threat quarterbacks and if he responds well to Wilson's fast-paced offense with accuracy it will mean trouble for IU's opponents. As for now, Coffman is listed as the starter, but Roberson is too good to keep off the field.
Helping in the running game is the return of Stephen Houston (749 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Tevin Coleman (225-1). Houston had an excellent junior season and one of his better games came against Purdue with 158 yards and three scores on the ground. Houston is also very effective out of the backfield as a receiver with 37 catches for 381 more yards and four more touchdowns.
Indiana also returns all of its top receivers in Shane Wynn (68-660-6), Cody Latimer (51-805-6), Kofi Hughes (43-639-3) and Ted Bolser (41-445-3). Bolder is likely one of the top returning tight ends in the conference and having all those weapons back in an offense that relies on complexity and quick decision-making is a huge asset. Basically, the Hoosiers lost no one of value from their skill players. Even top reserves Duwyce Wilson (23-230-1) and Nick Stoner (13-118-0) are back to provide depth.
The Indiana offense could also be good for awhile. Among the 11 starters listed only two (Hughes and Bolser) are freshmen. All five offensive linemen are underclassmen. Though they are smaller than your average big Ten line, they are built for the fast pace of IU's offense. They allowed just 17 sacks a season ago and are led by Collin Rahrig and Bernard Taylor. Jason Springs and Peyton Eckert give them tall tackles that will be tough to get around.
As good as Indiana's offense could be, a major question is the defense. As the Ohio State game proved, scoring 49 points means nothing if you give up 52. Combined with the offense, Indiana returns more starters than any team in the country and that will be true next season as well. Among the 22 starters on offense and defense Indiana has only two offensive seniors and three defensive seniors.
One of those seniors is safety Greg Heban, who was the best tackler in 2012 for Indiana. He had 91 tackles, a sack, and three interceptions, including one with a lengthy return before he was tackled by Robert Marve. He is joined in the defensive backfield with classmate Antonio Marshall, who had 38 tackles and two interceptions as a cornerback.
Griffin Dahlstrom, with 48 tackles, is the only other senior on the defense and he is projected to start at linebacker. On the defensive line there is a lot of youth after the departures of Adam Replogle and Larry Black. Zack Shaw, Ryan Phillis, Ralpheal Green, and Alex Todd combined for only five sacks a season ago. Todd and Green played sparingly.
Dahlstrom, Chase Hoobler, and David Cooper will attempt to shore up the linebacker spots that are often a problem on the Indiana defense. As a team Indiana gave up 231 yards rushing last season. Akeem Shavers had 126 yards rushing against them and that was, honestly, a bad day for most backs going against IU. Wisconsin ran for an astounding 564 yards on 64 attempts in Bloomington last year. That was with IU playing with the motivation of knowing a win would possibly send them to an unlikely Big Ten championship game.
Until Indiana can stop the run, or even slow it down, there won't be any improvement in the team's record. Scoring quickly is nice, but when opposing teams can run with impunity and milk the clock that means the offense has to be virtually perfect to have a chance at winning. For years Indiana has had an abysmal run defense, and it has to get better this season for there to be true improvement. Wisconsin had so little respect for Indiana's run defense that they passed just seven times in their 62-14 win in Bloomington. Even Navy, WHO RUNS THE FRIGGIN' TRIPLE OPTION, passed 13 times.
Indiana Special Teams
While we have Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman is an equally good kickoff returner with a 23.6 yard average and a return for a score. Nick Stoner is also an effective punt returner and was a member of IU's 4x400 relay team that placed 8th nationally.
Mitch Ewald is back as the senior kicker and has had a solid career. He has hit on 44 of 55 attempts in his career and is 105 of 106 on PAT attempts. Sophomore Erich Toth will punt, but averaged below 40 yards per kick as a freshman.
This game honestly scares me more than most Indiana games do. Purdue has dominated the series since 1997, winning all but three games in that time. In five of Purdue's 13 wins since 1997 the Boilers have scored over 50 points while Indiana has scored over 30 only twice, in 2010 and 2012. I have been to all but two of the past 16 Bucket games and only once, in 2007, did I seriously think Indiana had a better than 50% chance of winning.
This year is different. Purdue is in transition and may absolutely the need the Indiana game to reach a third straight bowl. Purdue was in the same boat last year and surrendered 512 yards to an offense that returns almost everything. Our own offense is still a bit of a question mark, so I don't know if we have the firepower to win another shootout.
Indiana should at least be playing for a rare bowl birth too. They should beat Indiana State, Bowling Green, Illinois, and Navy without a lot of trouble. The offense is more than good enough to beat someone like Missouri, Penn State, or Michigan State to get that fifth win. I would be deluded to say they weren't good enough to beat Purdue this year.
Still, I am a Boilermaker. The one near certainty of the last almost two decades has been the Bucket residing in West Lafayette when the season is over. In all three Indiana wins the game has come down to almost the final snap, while Purdue has often finished them off by the end of the third quarter. We're in for more of a fight than usual this year, but you can pry the Bucket from our cold, dead hands.
This is game 12, and I think Hazell will have the guys ready. If a bowl is on the line Purdue has found a way to get it done before, winning in 2002, 2011, and 2012 with eligibility on the line. I think we do so again as Brandon Cottom, Akeem Hunt, Rob Henry, and others run repeatedly until the Hoosiers prove they can stop the run. Hazell is smart enough to realize this and exploit it. Purdue 38, Indiana 35