It isn’t too often that coaches are given a fourth chance to get to a bowl game in this current day in age of college football. Then again, Indiana isn’t exactly your average football program. As head coach Kevin Wilson enters year four changes are the name of the game, and going bowling at the end of the season is goal number one.
Getting that done requires winning six games, which was a threshold too high a season ago. It inspired defensive changes, with new coordinator Brian Knorr coming in and establishing the Big Ten’s second 3-4 defense in as many years.
Since arriving in Bloomington the offense has never been the question, and the hope will be that Knorr’s defensive changes will be just enough in his first season to make this team in to a bowl-eligible one.
Interest in the Hoosiers football program has been on a huge rise since Wilson came on campus, but 2014 is put up or shut up time for this team. Will the Hoosiers be up to the challenge? Let’s see how this season plays out in our first look at the Big Ten East.
Aug. 30 – vs. Indiana State: WIN
No matter the defensive struggles in the past the Hoosiers should be good enough on offense to handle whatever the Sycamores have up their sleeves. For a new defense this will be a decent first test given the spread offense Indiana State runs, but it won’t be a significant enough of a test to win. Hoosiers by a lot in this one.
Sept. 13 – at Bowling Green: WIN
This will be a much more significant test, but having the previous week of will be a huge advantage for Indiana. It will give them time to make plenty adjustments ahead of this test. Last season wasn’t much of a test, with the Hoosiers winning 42-10, but something clicked for the Falcons following that game and the team comes in to 2014 as one of the best in the MAC. Look for this to be a lot closer than last season, but still a Hoosiers win, even on the road.
Sept. 20 – at Missouri: LOSS
Despite the fact that Missouri losses its best offensive weapon (WR Dorial Green-Beckham) and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Michael Sam) for vastly different reasons, the Tigers did make it to the SEC championship game in their second season in the SEC for a reason. Coming back is one of those reasons — quarterback Matty Mauk. Playing a second-straight road game and facing what still should be a formidable SEC foe doesn’t bode well. Until Indiana proves they can win a game against higher competition I’m not putting money on them to win this one. It will be closer than last season’s 45-28 loss at home though.
Sept. 27 – vs. Maryland: WIN
After a tough Big Ten opener, this game should feel a lot more familiar to the Terps thanks to the spread attack Indiana uses. In a game that could be an offensive explosion, I’m looking to the team with a better run game and that means I’m picking Indiana at home. This is my pick for the highest scoring game of the Big Ten season, with both teams capable of putting 40-plus points on the board. Indiana at home takes this one though.
Oct. 4 – vs. North Texas: WIN
Shiny new helmets won’t do anything to impress or scare the Hoosiers; after all they did unveil about 9 billion of them on their own last season, right? That said, North Texas is not to be taken lightly on the football field anymore. Having the underrated and under appreciated (looking at you Iowa State) Dan McCarney as head coach makes a huge difference. Despite the competitive uptick, don’t expect it to be enough to overcome Tevin Coleman and the Hoosiers run game, let alone IU’s passing attack. Look for a nice win streak heading in to the majority of Big Ten play.
Oct. 11 – at Iowa: LOSS
Sorry to say this Hoosiers fans, but that two-game win streak will be gone in a hurry. Iowa has a chance to be a major player in the Big Ten West and with this game at home it should be favored to win. Iowa’s defensive front is one of the better in the Big Ten, and it will provide the Hoosiers offensive line all it can handle. Look for the defense to be enough to slow down Indiana’s high-flying attack and get a bigger than the score indicates victory, somewhere around 35-24.
Oct. 18 – vs. Michigan State: LOSS
The nice part of Indiana’s schedule is that it gets a few of the big games at home this season, too bad one of them happens to be against defending B1G champs, Michigan State. It’s an all-around nightmare of a matchup on paper, but recent history suggests these two teams are closer than you’d think. IU lost 42-28 last season, but it kept the game within a score until the fourth quarter. This game has the potential to be an upset given MSU will be looking ahead to games against Michigan and Ohio State, but the Hoosiers just aren’t up to the task yet.
Nov. 1 – at Michigan: LOSS
Looking in to the crystal ball this far in to the season for Michigan is a difficult task. On the one hand Devin Gardner and the passing game appear to have plenty of talent in them, but on the other the run game could be a major let down. What makes the difference in favor of U-M in this one is a defense that goes vastly underrated and under appreciated thanks to an offense that has stole the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Don’t look for a repeat of the crazy 63-47 scoreline we saw last season.
Nov. 8 – vs. Penn State: WIN
By this point in time Indiana is due for a win, and by this point in time Penn State is due to find out why its concerns about depth were well founded. While the Nittany Lions have some great starting pieces all over the place, history tells us some of those pieces are going to break down. Having this game at home also is a good reason to think Indiana gets off its now three game losing streak. So is last season’s 44-24 beat down at Memorial Stadium. Look for more of that to happen in 2014.
Nov. 15 – at Rutgers: LOSS
Rutgers is probably on the bottom looking up in the Big Ten East, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be competitive. Considering the cross-division games with Nebraska and Wisconsin, this is going to be the Scarlet Knights’ best opportunity to pull off a win in its first Big Ten season. For some reason, under Wilson, this team doesn’t play very well on the road and that makes this game ripe for the picking. So does a Rutgers front seven that is very underrated. Look for Piscataway to hit the food trucks hard after winning a first conference game.
Nov. 22 – at Ohio State: LOSS
The Big Ten East rears its ugly head with Indiana having to go to Ohio State in hopes of securing a bowl game. Sorry Hoosier faithful, it ain’t going to happen. You could take Braxton Miller, Noah Spence and Joe Bosa all out of this game and the Buckeyes would still have the talent to stay on the level of Indiana in my book. Look for this game to be a bit closer than the expected odds will have it though.
Nov. 29 – vs. Purdue: WIN
What better way to clinch your first bowl appearance since 2007 than by doing so against your bitter rivals? Indiana hosts Purdue looking to start a multi-game win streak in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket for the first time since 1993-94. It will happen as Indiana shows it’s mettle after a tough Big Ten season’s worth of lessons on defense. Also, quite frankly the talent gap on the offensive side of the ball is rather large. Congrats, Hoosiers, you’re going bowling!
Overall Record: 6-6
Big Ten Record: 3-5