I am still waiting to hear back from the Minnesota blog on a Q&A to complete the season, but as I am waiting we have one more we can run. This time Kyle Swick of Crimson Quarry is here to discuss the Old Oaken Bucket and the Indiana Hoosiers.
T-Mill: It’s year two for Tom Allen! Is it time for more Indiana #CHAOSTEAM? Does he finally get a breakthrough vs. Michigan?
Kyle: #CHAOSTEAM is a way of life now in Indiana. They spent years cultivating that brand and it’ll take more than a head coaching change to rid themselves of it. While Indiana may not be the high-flying offense they used to be under Kevin Wilson, they’re still more than capable of finding themselves down three to [Insert Highly-Ranked East Division Team] with mere minutes to go with the ball deep in opposing territory. ESPN sends out an alert to everyone’s phones informing the nation of the UPSET ALERT and as every eye in the country turns to look at the Hoosiers a sinkhole swallows the entire offense (the play is deemed a turnover following a 39 minute replay review).
I’m rooting like hell for Tom Allen. He’s one of the most likable guys in the game and gives off a real One Of Us vibe having coached high school ball in the state and graduating from Indiana. There’s no questioning his defensive chops, and if he can sort out the offense– I think he could be here for a long time. If he could finally get one of those coveted pelts from the top of the East, he’d have folk hero status for life.
T-Mill: Purdue and Indiana are obviously much closer now that we have Jeff Brohm. Does either team have a real edge?
Kyle: I see both teams on pretty even footing as things stand in July. I don’t love y’all’s two-QB approach but Jeff Brohm certainly gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the offense. Both teams have to handle significant losses from their defenses, which were the strength of each squad last season. I think I like Purdue’s overall two-deep a little bit more than Indiana’s, but I don’t see a clear edge between the two.
T-Mill: The offense looks like it should be better this year, but what was holding it back last season (Yes, feel free to rant on Mike DeBord).
Kyle: Situational play calling and line play, those are the two things that absolutely handcuffed Indiana last season. Way too much throwing short of the sticks on 3rd and 4th down, and we were too often in 3rd/4th and long because the running game had absolutely no traction. The line struggled to create holes for the backs, the run game would get abandoned due to ineffectiveness, and the QB play just wasn’t good enough to be relied upon as heavily as it was. Mike DeBord and co. have to find more balance next season and, frankly, just get better at realizing what the team’s strengths are.
T-Mill: Indiana’s defense was the best it has been in decades last season. After losing some key pieces can it stay strong?
Kyle: Tom Allen came in and took a unit that couldn’t stop a nosebleed and immediately turned them into one of the best defenses in the country. His leash, in this regard, is as long as it possibly can be. I have zero concerns about his ability to get his guys to play sound, effective defense. They may not roll out a top-30 unit each season, but I’ve seen enough to believe the days of completely incompetent defensive play are behind us.
T-Mill: Who has the edge in the QB derby between Ramsey and Dawkins?
Kyle: I think it has to be Dawkins. I preface this by saying I don’t know anything about what’s going on in practice nor do I have any idea what the coaches are thinking, but Dawkins is going to be the kind of QB that could really get things cooking in an up-tempo spread system. Richard Lagow, while assuredly talented, seemed somewhat miscast in that system and Ramsey, while promising, is still a little too green to be handed the reigns full-time. Dawkins, meanwhile, has the talent / experience combo that can’t be matched. His ability to run the ball also gives the offense a dynamic it has been missing for some time. Inconsistency has been an issue in the past but, frankly, that just means he’s right at home. His addition is an exciting one, and I look forward to seeing what he can do.
T-Mill: Is it another “Loser Leaves Town” match for a bowl game between us in Bloomington this year?
Kyle: I think so. Purdue is a slightly better team on paper but that run-in is absolutely brutal: OSU, at MSU, v. Iowa, at Minny, vs. Wisconsin, at Indiana. There are only two teams on that schedule Purdue is projected to have a better S&P+ than and they have to play them on the road. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Purdue’s most important game might very well be its first. They really can’t afford much worse than a 5-1 start if they want to go bowling again.
Assuming Indiana lose to the top-4 in the East and drop what will almost certainly be an extremely annoying home loss to Iowa, an undefeated non-conference is critical (three teams with an average S&P+ rank of 103). From there, it’s finding three wins between Rutger, Minny, Maryland, and Purdue to get back to a bowl. It’s doable, but so was last season.