This time of the year everything always looks bright for Indiana football.
This is my 16th season covering the Hoosiers. And one thing you can always count on is that in July the company line is that Indiana football is ready to turn the corner. Somehow, someway the (substitute the year here) edition of IU football will find a way to get it done.
The names and faces of the players change but the message is always the same. ‘We worked harder this summer than ever before,' or ‘Everyone has really bought into to coach's system. We're all on the same page,' or ‘This is our senior year and we don't want to go out with a losing season.'
And on and on and on it goes. And then the Hoosiers go out and win three or four games out of 12. They lose a nonconference game or two that they shouldn't lose and they limp to the finish line. You can set your watch to it. I've covered IU football for 15 previous seasons and it has had one winning season in that span. In 11 of those seasons, the Hoosiers won four games or less.
Sorry to be cynical but it's like the movie ‘Groundhog Day' over and over again. It just seems like every year plays out with pretty much the same scenario from Big Ten Media Day optimism in July to a couple of easy wins over early cupcake opponents to a buzz saw in conference play. IU always seems to get close to becoming bowl eligible and then has a rough finish to the year.
Here's a statistic for you: Take a guess at what Indiana's record in the month of November has been over the last 15 years? The answer: 9-42. In the last five years alone, IU has been 2-16 in November.
Now, I'm not blaming the players for saying those things or thinking that way. That's the way they should think. If they thought any other way, you would be even more concerned. But they look around, they've been in the program for four years and they've thought about what the record could have been if a few outcomes had gone the other way. Last year was the perfect example. IU finished 4-8 but lost to Ball State 41-39, Navy 31-30, Michigan State 31-27 and Ohio State 52-49. A couple of different bounces of the ball and IU could have easily finished 6-6 or better.
But my point in all of this is that while there seems to be a lot of optimism in Bloomington right now, why should anyone believe that this year will be any different than recent history?
Now, this is the when the blog takes a different tone for me though.
The craziest part of all of this for me is that even having said all of that I really believe that this year could be different. I think this team will ultimately be bowl bound. And maybe not just a 6-6 bowl team but seven or eight wins.
Indiana plays eight home games and doesn't leave the state to play a game until Oct. 12 when it travels to Michigan State. Three of the eight Big Ten games are against teams I think the Hoosiers will be favored against: Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue.
The Hoosiers have all kinds of offensive weapons. The receiving corps could end up with five players who for their Indiana careers will have more than 100 catches each and over 1,000 receiving yards. The running game is experienced and clearly has to be better than a year ago to allow IU to have a more balanced attack, but with a quarterback that is mobile like Tre Roberson added to a group that includes runners like Stephen Houston, Tevin Coleman and D'Angelo Roberts, the Hoosiers should have a chance to be competitive.
As is always the case with Indiana it will come down to the defense and being appreciably better than it has been in the past. There's a lot of experience on that side of the ball but the problem is it's experience from two teams that won a combined five games.
But there just seems to be something different with this team. I think they have all bought into Kevin Wilson's system and I think he's a pretty good coach. This is a pretty good recruiting class, too. I actually think there's a lot to be excited about. And the conference media picked IU to finish fourth out of six divisional teams so that could be enough to get them into a bowl game.
As always, I'm interested in what you think. Bottom line: Will this be another disappointing Indiana football season or will the Hoosiers find a way to win six games or more and make it to a bowl game?
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/foxsportshutch.