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Know Thy Opponent 2022: Indiana State Sycamores

All hail the mighty Trees!

NCAA Football: Indiana State at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

While the season opener is a tough one against a potentially ranked conference foe, week 2 will be the type of game we have not had in some time. Unless you are dumb enough to schedule North Dakota State there is no valid excuse for a power 5 team to ever lose to an FCS team. The difference in talent, resources, and everything is just too great. Still, it does happen from time to time. Last season four Power 5 teams (Arizona, Florida State, Washington, and Vanderbilt) lost their FCS cupcake games.

Michigan is the most famous Big Ten example, but Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, and Rutgers have all had it happen to them. Iowa was the most recent victim from the Big Ten, as they were dumb enough to schedule North Dakota State in 2016. Fortunately, Purdue has not been a victim to this, and thus would not be subject to my proposed rule of “If a Power 5 team loses to an FCS team they should immediately give them a return home game the next season”. Seriously, how fun would it be if Florida State had to go to Jacksonville State this year?

This game is on the schedule to give Purdue a win and to give Indiana State a check, plain and simple. Purdue has never lost to a team from the FCS/1-AA level since it was created in 1978. The last time Purdue failed to beat a team from outside the top level of college football was a 7-7 tie with Wabash College in 1923. The last defeat was a year earlier to Wabash 7-6 (proving once again, Wabash sucks).

This is the first time coach Brohm will face off against an FCS foe at Purdue. That said, they may not be the weakest opponent he has faced. I would argue Indiana State is better than the dismal UConn team we played last season. This still is a game Purdue should win by multiple scores.

2021 Record: 5-6, 3-5

Bowl Result: None

Blog Representation: Sycamore Pride

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 5-0

Last Purdue win: 38-14 at Purdue on 9/12/2015

Last Indiana State win: None

Head Coach: Curt Mallory (17-28 in 5th season)

Last Season for the Sycamores

Indiana State has never been an FCS power, as they have only made the FCS playoffs in 1983, 1984, and 2014. They are now led by Curt Mallory, the youngest son of Bill Mallory, who was a miracle worker because he is the one coach that managed to have sustained success at Indiana. Under the younger Mallory Indiana State was 0-11 in his first season, but two years later they finished 7-4 and were in the top 25 of the FCS final poll. They did not play at all in 2020, then went 5-6 last season.

Indiana State has the unenviable position of playing in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, which is one of the best if not THE best FCS conference. It put six teams into the 24 team FCS playoff field last year, and Indiana State went 0-5 against them. This included a 44-0 loss to FCS semifinalist South Dakota State and 44-2 loss to FCS champion North Dakota State.

The Trees did play a Big Ten foe last season. They headed north to Evanston and fell at Northwestern 24-6 in a game where the Wildcats jumped up 14-0 early and kind of put it on cruise control. As we saw ourselves, Northwestern wasn’t exactly very good. Indiana State did not score until 3:32 left in the game.

Who to Watch on Offense

Tee Hodge – RB – Hodge has yet to play a snap for Indiana State, but his name stands out because he was originally recruited by Tennessee and spent two years in their program before transferring. He is a former three-star recruit and it is not often that someone from the SEC ends up at Indiana State. He will also pair up with potential starting quarterback Cade Chambers, who he won a pair of state championship with in Marysville, Tennessee.

Omarion Dixon – RB – Dixon is another talented freshman running back that redshirted last year, but I mention him because H&R’s own Kyle Holderfield coached him at Harrison HS in West Lafayette, where he had a stellar career. He ran for more than 4,000 yards and 51 TDs at Harrison and even drew some walk-on interest from Purdue.

Harry Van Dyne – WR – Van Dyne is a transfer in from Minnesota, but last season was his first at Indiana State. He played in all 11 games last season, but only had one catch for 15 yards. He is a big receiver at 6’5”, 210 pounds and with Big Ten experience he can be a factor at the FCS level.

Overall Indiana State’s offense was pretty meek a season ago. They averaged just 15.9 points per game and they did not even hit 2,000 yards passing. They averaged just 291 yards per game and they need a new starting quarterback, as starter Anthony Thompson is gone. Indiana State was held to 10 points or less five times. Their offensive line has some good size in Jose Vazquez IV, Carter Herrin, and Joel Stevens as returning starters.

Who to Watch on Defense

Geoffrey Brown – LB – The Trees get their leading tackler back in Brown, who had 61 stops, 8.5 for loss, and a sack last year. He is from nearby Fishers and he was a Third Team Freshman All-American at the FCS level according to Phil Steele.

Kris Reid Jr. – DL – Reid is the top sack-getter with four from last season, and he is an experienced player as a fifth year senior. He stuck around despite the entire 2020 season being cancelled and he is one of their most experienced defenders. He will need to play a bigger role, as Inoke Moala, who had eight sacks a year ago, is gone.

Indiana State gave up 30 points per game last year, and they lose most of their top defenders aside from Brown. He cannot be a one man show. Teams ran on them for 177 yards per game, but the pass defense was decent at 228 yards per game. Still, Purdue is the best team many of these players have ever faced. I do not anticipate any trouble.

Who to Watch on Special Teams

Stephen Ruiz – K – Ruiz is another power conference transfer, as he spent a couple of seasons at Boston College, but he has not attempted a kick outside of kickoffs in his career. Indiana State does need a new kicker, and they were only 6 of 12 on field goals last year.

Michael Haupert – QB – Yes, he is listed as a QB, but Haupert is a wild card player. He plays as a wildcat QB and as the primary return man on special teams. He can line up all over the field and is one of those guys they want to get the ball in his hands and see what happens. He can even line up at receiver.

Game Outlook

Look, it’s an FCS game. I was stunned that they made it a 4pm kickoff instead of a noon kickoff buried on BTN Ocho. I guess that is a sign that Purdue is moving up in the world as this was put in a better time slot for more eyes even though it is probably not going to be too competitive.

Indiana State is decent for an FCS team. They are not as bad as the 1-11 team that Hazell barely beat in 2013 or the 1-10 team Purdue blew out in 2006. They play in a tough conference at that level and with a little more offense this year they can even hold their own.

There is still no valid reason for this game to be close.

The key for this game is to get everyone out healthy. Last season we lost Mershawn Rice and Zander Horvath against UConn in a massive blowout. Purdue needs to come out early and put it away so much of the second half is garbage time with the backups in. This will be a great game to see who wins the backup QB derby between Michael Alaimo and Brady Allen. I expect Austin Burton to be the primary backup if AOC gets hurt, but Alaimo or Allen is the future for 2023. One will probably get his first significant action in this one.

Way-too-early Prediction

Purdue by a lot. The goal is to win comfortably and play as many guys as possible. I don’t expect this to be as dominant of a win as last year at UConn, but if it is even competitive we should be very concerned. The 20-14 win over them 2013 should have been a gigantic red flag for the Hazell era. Even he beat them twice. Purdue 52, Indiana State 10