It is hate Indiana week and while normally Indiana football is a thing to be pitied, they still have our Bucket. The Hoosiers have not won consecutive Bucket games since 1993-94, which was in the middle of a dark time where Indiana won it in 7 of 10 years. Then Joe Tiller came to town and they have only won it four times since 1996.
Their season has been rough, as usual, and the Crimson Quarry guys are in the same boat as us: praying for a good basketball season. Ben Raphel was this week's guest for the Q&A, and my answer to their questions can be found here. Normally this feature runs on Thursday, but since that is a holiday and it is Indiana, let's go early:
T-Mill: Kevin Wilson's fourth year has gone a lot like Danny Hope's second year with injuries decimating the quarterback position. Does that give him more of a pass or are there hot seat rumors already?
Ben: I don't think anyone, even Wilson, could have expected the attrition under center this season for the Hoosiers. Two quarterbacks transferred and the first and second stringers are out for the season thanks to Iowa. This could happen to any team - look at what's happened to Oklahoma State and their normally powerful offense after they lost their starter this year. Wilson cannot be faulted for this, even if it might have been advantageous in hindsight to reach out to a juco QB after Tre Roberson transferred.
There have been some hot seat rumors, which are bound to happen since we've taken a step back this season, and especially since we recently lost an in-state QB recruit to Penn State. But I think Wilson is safe for a few reasons. First of all, IU football would have to start from scratch again and I doubt Fred Glass and company are ready to do that. Second, we still have a lot of young players starting, so hopefully with more experience they can make more of a difference in the future. Also, Wilson is in year four of a seven-year contract, so I think next year will really be the deciding season for him.
T-Mill: You have seen more of Indiana under Zander Diamont than I have. How has his progress been? Is he a QB of the future?
Ben: Diamont's been progressing and getting more comfortable under center. He had some nice throws against Ohio State that our wide receivers dropped, and he's shown some speed as a dual-threat QB as well. However, he's still not ready for prime time. I don't think anyone expected to see Diamont starting this season, and as a result, it might not be a bad idea for him to redshirt next year, since his redshirt was burned this season.
T-Mill: Here is your designated space to gush over Tevin Coleman, who is admittedly pretty awesome.
Ben: Tevin Coleman is indeed awesome, and hasn't had many problems with opposing defenses this season, aside from Michigan and Penn State. He reminds me almost of a young Barry Sanders, in his ability to effortlessly break off huge gains from the line of scrimmage. We love Coleman here, and it's a shame that he plays for a 3-8 team, because he won't even get a sniff for a Heisman this year despite the fact that he has a chance to break 2,000 yards on the season this weekend.
That being said, I am a realist, and would not be surprised one bit if he declares for the NFL Draft after this season, nor would I be upset. The man deserves to get paid and play for a pro team with a winning culture. In fact, I understand there is a pro team with a winning record about 50 miles north of Bloomington that could really use some help in its run game right now.
T-Mill: I have been impressed with Indiana's improvement on defense this season. Who has excelled?
Ben: The defense has been better, but it's still not great. The Hoosiers have a boom-or-bust offense that often results in the either a three-and-out or a long touchdown run by Tevin, meaning that the defense often stays on the field for longer periods of time. The past two weeks, the defense has grinded out two and a half decent quarters, but fallen apart as the game has worn on. We're still regularly giving up 40 or so points to B1G competition, and part of that comes from being worn out as the game rolls on.
I do like what I've been seeing from the defense compared to last year though, even if the improvements aren't totally there yet. The defense played their best game of the season against Penn State, but the offense couldn't put it together that day. Individually, we do have some skilled players on defense. Antonio Allen picked off JT Barrett twice last weekend, and Mark Murphy had a pick-six against Penn State. Up front, Bobby Richardson and Tegray Scales have had good seasons as well.
T-Mill: I have written extensively about Purdue's refusal to get into an athletics arms race. Since IU's athletic department is even bigger at a similar-sized school, how are you guys handing things?
Ben: The culture around college athletics has changed substantially over the past two decades, and an influx of wealth has come into the sport and the games reach more people than ever before. In addition, conference-specific cable networks like BTN and SEC Network are allowing these schools to profit even further. I live in Louisville now, and I have to pay extra for BTN, even though I'm less than two hours from Bloomington. So in a way, with all this extra revenue, the arms race in college athletics has been inevitable.
In terms of facilities, AD Fred Glass has done a great job at making IU athletic events worth attending. We have new baseball and softball parks, have renovated Memorial Stadium, have a new wrestling/volleyball facility on the way, and received a $40 million donation last year to renovate Assembly Hall. Also, I personally think athletes deserve more payment than just a scholarship for what they contribute for universities, and IU's student-athlete bill of rights that was introduced over the summer is a good first step in this regard.
T-Mill: Overall, how is the football program progressing and how much does it drive things in the above question?
Ben: AJ and I were talking about the football team on Saturday night, and how both of us bought in before the season that the team could get to 7-5 and make something like the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Judging from Wilson's first three seasons at IU, it seemed like the program had nowhere to go but up. Unfortunately, we were mistaken, and even if Nate Sudfeld hadn't been lost to a season-ending injury we would have been hard-pressed to get to 6 wins. I thought the Mizzou win would be a program-changer; however, it's the flukiest result of the season outside of Ohio State losing at home to Virginia Tech.
IU has inherent disadvantages that make it a tough place for football to flourish. Having three Power 5 football programs in a mid-sized state makes recruiting tough, especially when IU is known nationwide as a basketball school. I like to joke a lot about the "reversible jacket crowd" of ND football/IU basketball fans, so the program not only has to win over recruits but also casual fans in the state, especially after Hoosier Hysteria happens in late October. In addition, Kevin Wilson is the second-lowest paid head coach in the B1G (aside from Kyle Flood), so ultimately if a coach does do very well here, he might be tempted to take a pay raise at another school.
T-Mill: Turning to basketball (as this often does) is Crean legitimately on the hot seat or does his buyout make him safe?
Ben: Oh, he's on the hot seat, and I think he knows it. The seat has cooled down considerably since the Davis/Holt incident, especially now that games have begun and the team has a solid victory over Larry Brown and SMU under its belt. An NCAA berth would go a long way to helping Crean save his job this year, and despite our obvious flaws, guys like Blackmon and RoJo may shoot this team's way into the Dance. As for the buyout: It's Indiana, which means two things: we don't play in the CBI and we will find the buyout money if it's truly necessary.
Ed. Note: The above question was originally asked before Monday night's loss to Eastern Washington. Here is Ben's addendum he sent last night:
HIS SEAT IS HOTTER THAN THE FIRE OF A THOUSAND SUNS WHO THE HELL LOSES TO EASTERN WASHINGTON AT HOME AFTER JUST KNOCKING OFF A TOP 25 OPPONENT THIS IS STUPID
T-Mill: Finally, a prediction for Saturday?
Ben: Before last week, I would have predicted the Boilers to reclaim the Bucket. but after IU looked friskier than normal against THE Ohio State University and Purdue laid an egg at home against Northwestern, I'll predict the Hoosiers win a close one. Tevin Coleman closes out his career with a strong day and the IU defense comes up with a key turnover, as the Hoosiers retain the Bucket 23-17.