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Know Thy Opponent 2015: Indiana Hoosiers

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It is time to come and get the Bucket back.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, we are at the end of the Know Thy Opponent series. As always, we end with the hated Hoosiers of Indiana. Though, when it comes to football, I don't really hate Indiana.  I have always viewed Indiana football as something to be pitied. In an era where seemingly every team gets to go to a bowl game they have managed a single postseason trip in the past 20 years. Among the highlights in that time:

  • That one time they beat Purdue on a late field goal to barely squeeze into a bowl game (after blowing a 21-point lead at home.
  • Finally gaining consecutive wins over Purdue, thought they came over the two worst Purdue teams of the last two decades.
  • Antwaan Randle El
  • Tevin Coleman
  • Um... beating Missouri? (Which sort of makes them SEC East Champs)

Sorry, but when beating Purdue is your biggest achievement you haven't done much. In fact, it is quite pathetic Purdue couldn't beat a struggling true freshman quarterback in last year's game. Zander Diamont holding the Bucket with a cigar is an abomination, I tell you.

This year adds some history. Indiana is coming in with rare consecutive I's on the Bucket. If they make it three in a row it will be the first time in 68 years they have won that many. The 1947 win capped a string of four straight Bucket victories. Purdue then went 24-3-1 over the subsequent 28 years to take firm control in the all-time series. So would you trade 1 to 2 more years of Indiana wins for nearly 30 years of dominance?

The answer, of course, is no. It is time to get our damn Bucket back.

Indiana Hoosiers

2014 Record: 4-8, 1-7 Big Ten

Bowl result: None

Blog Representation: Crimson Quarry

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 72-39-6

Last Purdue win: 11/24/2012 at Purdue 56-35

Last Indiana win: 11/29/2014 at Indiana 23-16

Last Season for the Hoosiers:

It was a bit of a strange year for Indiana. At one time they were on the Danny hope quarterback plan. In 2013 Cameron Coffman, Tre Roberson, and Nate Sudfeld all helped run an offense that was genuinely terrifying at times. Sudfeld and Roberson split duties, and part of the depth was lost when Coffman transferred. Roberson did not enjoy sharing so he too transferred where he is now a senior at Illinois State. He took the Redbirds to the FCS title game, while Sudfeld was left as basically THE guy.

Things started well. Sudfeld led Indiana to an upset win at Missouri, but also a shocking loss at Bowling Green in a shootout. He was injured in a loss at Iowa, then his backup, Chris Covington, was injured against Michigan State. That left Diamont, a true freshman in command.

From that point forward the Indiana offense devolved to "Give the ball to Tevin Coleman and pray he breaks one" Well, Coleman was really, really good and rushed for over 2,000 yards. There were some near wins over Penn State and Ohio State (Really! Indiana led with 20 minutes left!), but the only time Diamont led a game-winning drive was against Purdue.

Because of course.

This year Indiana has a squishy soft non-conference schedule that they hope translates into a bowl game. Their toughest game is at Wake Forest or home against Western Kentucky. Even then, IU needs two conference wins at minimum. Home games against Rutgers, Michigan, and Iowa could be enough. Oh, and they finish at Purdue.

Indiana Offense

Kevin Wilson's fast-paced offensive vision hit a major snag with all the injuries last season. With Coleman they were 10th in rushing at 263 yards per game. The passing game was horrid, however, ranking 122nd nationally at 141 yards per game.

The passing game should be much, much better with Sudfled back from injury. He has 4,306 career yards and 34 TDs against just 13 INTs. He also completes over 60% of his passes. He didn't even play much against Purdue two years ago, as Roberson did most of the damage. Sudfeld should be one of the conference's better quarterbacks, but if he gets hurt again it is Diamont time again.

A lot of pressure will be on Sudfeld after Coleman left for the NFL and is now with the Atlanta Falcons. No matter who returns they are not going to be as good as Coleman, who was an all-timer at IU. The Hoosiers did get a bit of good fortune when UAB decided to shutter its program. That made Jordan Howard available immediately, and the running back who rushed for 1,587 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Blazers in 2014 takes over as a big, bruising back.

The passing game has to get better and it needs to develop the kind of receivers it had in 2013. It will have to do so in a hurry because the top three receivers are gone, leaving only J-Shun Harris II, Simmie Cobbs, and Dominique Booth with anything close to experience. They combined for only 33 receptions and a little over 300 yards, while Jordan Fuchs is the top returning TE with only three catches. Some also might remember that Cobbs was a one-time Purdue recruit as well. All three receivers are sophomores, so this is a very young group. The group got even younger when Harris tore his ACL and was lost for the season.

The offensive line has some decent pieces. Jason Springs is a decent left tackle with 34 career starts and good size at 6'7" and 305 pounds. Dan Feeney and Ralston Evans should be okay on the right side with more than 22 starts each. Senior Jake Reed anchors the middle at center. It should be a good line for Sudfeld to feel pretty comfortable.

Indiana Defense

The Indiana defense unquestionably cost the Hoosiers a bowl game in 2013. That offense was more than good enough to win 8 or 9 games, but the defense was so horrid it only won five. The Hoosiers don't need to have the '85 Bears defense to become a dangerous team. They merely need a defense that can hold a team with a pulse below 30 points. Even as bad as Purdue was in 2013 on offense it still scored 36 points on IU. Last year the defense was bad, particularly against the pass, which is all the more frustrating when Austin Appleby threw three interceptions. As usual, the run defense was bad. You can often run all day on Indiana, and have been able to for decades.

Up front Indiana must find a pass rush as Bobby Richardson is gone after having 9.5 sacks in 2014. Nate Hoff played well from his nose tackle spot for 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Darius Latham is coming into his own as an excellent defensive tackle. There is not much on the ends, however.

The linebackers are young with T.J. Timmons coming back after notching 59 tackles and two sacks. He is the only definite starter. He will be in the middle, while the edge linebackers are up in the air. Marcus Oliver, Zack Shaw, and Clyde Newton could all earn lots of playing time, or it could be someone else. This is probably among the biggest question marks on the team.

The secondary was be anchored by Antonio Allen, a former four-star recruit that had 59.5 tackles and two interceptions as a free safety last year. Instead, he decided to sell drugs to an informant and was booted from the team. Chase Dutra, who surprised many as a freshman and led the team with three interceptions, will play at one of the safety positions. Rashard Fant and Donovan Clark are the leading candidates to become the starting corners after both starters left.

Indiana Special Teams

Both of the main specialists return to give the Hoosiers some continuity. Erich Toth was an excellent punter at 40.7 yards per kick while Griffin Oakes was 13 of 18 on field goals. He struggled a little from longer range, but he hit on three against Purdue. He also regularly could induce touchbacks.

J-Shun Harris should handle both returns as he had some experience last year, but Shane Wynn did most of that.

Game Outlook

It is Indiana, so even in the best of years it is a struggle just to make bowl eligibility. That said, there are pieces here to make this a somewhat dangerous team. Like Purdue however, they have a lot of question marks before you can consider a bowl game as something definite.

The offense has never been the problem under Wilson. Sudfeld should be fine as a quarterback as long as he stays healthy. The addition of Howard from UAB won't totally make up for Coleman, but it certainly helps a lot. It is rare that a team gets a transfer come in that is immediately eligible after having a 1,500 yard rushing season. Howard should give them plenty of running game and as long as someone can catch the damn ball the offense will put up points.

The question, as always, is the defense. Can this team even slow down Big Ten offenses? There is no proven pass rush and there are inexperienced corners. Indiana still has to proven it can stop the run from time to time. Scoring 40 points per game is great... unless you are constantly giving up 45. We should know what they can do early. Western Kentucky is a high-powered offense that can score points and that game very well could end up like last year's loss at Bowling Green.

Prediction

Purdue has to get the Bucket back. Normally beating Indiana is a given, but Purdue has sunk so low that event hat is not guaranteed, especially with them having won two in a row. If this Purdue team loses to the Hoosiers it will have done what no Purdue team has done in 68 years: lose to Indiana three times in a row.

This game could very well come down to a "winner goes to Detroit, loser stays home" game. Purdue is playing in front of thousands of empty seats at home. They have never lost three in a row to Indiana in my lifetime or my father's lifetime. Let's bring the Bucket back home. Purdue 38, Indiana 34