Opponent: THE Indiana State Sycamores
Series History: Indiana leads 3-0
Last meeting: In an emotional first game of the 2007 season, Kellen Lewis threw for 285 yards and ran for another. James Hardy was the receiving star with 3 catches for 153 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. The Hoosiers won 55-7.
A quick note about the opponent: In addition to being an excellent trial run against teams named after trees, ISU should provide a bit of inspiration for IU. The last meeting between the two schools took place in the midst of one of the worst stretches of football the state has seen. From 2005-2009 The Sycamores were 2-52. Just pulling itself from the abyss is worthy of some measure of praise. To rebound with back to back winning seasons puts the Sycamores high on the list of comeback programs.
Is anyone still here? By my count 44 players from the 2011 roster have departed. Some were seniors, many were underclassmen. Some left of their own volition, others were unceremoniously dumped. No matter the reason, the Hoosiers went from a team that was the youngest in the B1G Ten to a team that will likely be even younger. Kevin Wilson has turned over more than half of the Indiana roster from the day he was hired in 2010.
On one hand, it’s not as if the experienced players were producing a whole lot the last few years. However, it’s probably unrealistic to expect the team to take too many steps forward until the massive roster churn process is over.
So who’s back? The good news is that despite the roster turnover, 16 starters return this year. These include the top two rushers along with the leading receiver the leading receiver. The Defense returns it’s top two sack gatherers and eight starters overall. The news becomes even better if many of these players lose starting spots.
First game, First impression: After last year’s calamitous loss to Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium, I shudder to think of a worst way to start the season. Unfortunately losing to the Sycamores would qualify as even worse. In fact, anything short of a pretty good ass kicking in the opening game will likely deflate whatever Hoosier momentum still exists.
No word yet if they’ll take attendance after halftime: Monday’s announcement that the lower bowl tickets for IU’s basketball season tickets will be determined by a loyalty program based on how often a student purchases and uses season football and basketball tickets is a welcome step in promoting better student attendance. However I don’t expect it to have that much of an impact this football season. Wait until little Johnny is standing in the last row of Balcony section AA trying to tell the Hoosiers from the Buckeyes on the court and he’s more likely to buy his football tickets next year.
Statistic that probably only I care about: When looking at a team that finished outside the top 100 in scoring offense and defense last year, there’s obviously plenty of room for improvement. However, given Kevin Wilson’s reputation and the various playmakers who are expected to contribute this year, it makes sense to expect a bigger improvement on offense. One thing I’ve heard Kevin Wilson stress is the quarterback’s accuracy. Last year Tre Roberson completed only 57% of his passes. Given the lack of big plays available, Indiana is going to need that to be much closer to 70% to have any chance of running a successful offense.
Scouting Future Opponents:
UMass begins its journey into the Football Bowl Subdivision with a visit to UConn.
Ball State opens the season with a MACrifice of its own hosting Eastern Michigan on Thursday night.
Northwestern visits Syracuse on Saturday. I’m sure this will prove a point to Michael Wilbon, so at least there’s that.
Remember when criticizing my predictions, that I was the first one to pick IU to the tournament last year, and if you don’t think I’m milking that well past it’s expiration date, you don’t know me very well:
Without Roberson’s favorite WR, the offense may stumble slightly out of the gate. Indiana State puts a slight scare into Hoosier Nation, but Indiana takes care of business in the 2nd half winning a semi-convincing 35-16 opener.