Indiana Is A Win Away From B1G Championship Game Contention
By MIke Hlas, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - We get a little ahead of ourselves sometimes. OK, a lot of the time.
There is a rush to call Indiana a football team ready to get over the hump and start seeing good times in November.
That may happen, maybe Saturday in Bloomington when the Hoosiers host Iowa. But they have more hills to climb before they can talk about being respectable, let alone a winner.
First, it’s still a team with a 3-5 record, 1-3 in the Big Ten. Its wins have come over FCS Indiana State, winless Massachusetts and Big Ten-winless Illinois. It lost to Ball State and Navy.
For another, none other than Hoosiers Coach Kevin Wilson suggests his guys didn’t play particularly well in their 31-17 win at Illinois last Saturday. They had to switch quarterbacks, and their normally zippy offense was limited to 292 yards.
“It’s nice to get a win and we need it,” said Wilson, who speaks as quickly as his team executes its offense, and that’s quick.
“We really didn’t get that good play at quarterback Saturday, and we still came out with a ‘W.’ We’ll need to play better this week.”
Wilson has adjusted since incumbent starting quarterback Tre Roberson broke his leg in the season’s second game. He has rotated sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman of Peculiar, Mo., and true freshman Nate Sudfeld.
Coffman got benched in the first quarter at Illinois after throwing an interception. Sudfeld came on and was more of a game-manager than anything else, but did complete 10 of 15 passes, two for touchdowns.
The Hoosiers are 93rd in the nation in total defense, allowing 438 yards a game. They’re 109th in rushing defense, getting gouged for 222.5 yards per outing. Damon Bullock, the football will be yours.
OK, that’s the bad stuff. The good stuff isn’t hard to find, either.
Indiana is the only team in FBS that hasn’t lost a fumble. That’s normally a sign of team with more maturity than the one belonging to second-year head coach Wilson.
While the Hoosiers had a five-game losing streak, four were by a combined 10 points. Indiana played Michigan State off its feet for a half, but the reverse was true in the second-half. The Hoosiers almost traded Ohio State score-for-score in the Buckeyes’ 52-49 win at Indiana on Oct. 13.
The best stuff is the team has persevered. Indiana hasn’t been dragged down by close loss after close loss, and has a spark to it entering the final month of the season. Now it’s a matter of if can elevate its play.
There’s been some recent chatter about Indiana being in a position to challenge for the Leaders Division’ spot in the Big Ten title game. It’s possible. If the Hoosiers win successive home games against Iowa and Wisconsin, they’ll be 3-3 in the league, and so will Wisconsin.
The Badgers finish with games against Ohio State and Penn State. Indiana closes at Penn State and Purdue. The Leaders’ leaders, Ohio State and Penn State, are ineligible for the league-championship.
So if the Hoosiers tie Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings, they’ll make the hour-long drive north to Indianapolis to play for a spot in the Rose Bowl.
As precious as it would be to see a 6-6 (or even 5-7) Indiana team in the league’s title game, Wilson isn’t listening to that noise.
“We’re trying to teach our guys how to put weeks back to back,” he said. “We’ve had a very short success, a very small success. I don’t think we’re strong enough to look at big pictures.”
But the Hawkeyes know this: They have to add to their 4-game winning streak over Indiana Saturday, or they and the Hoosiers will be two 4-5 teams traveling in opposite directions.
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