IU Insider Blog: Defense Wins

It's like a broken record. Indiana's offense scores a ton of points but the defense can't stop anybody. At some point it has to change for IU to rise out of its football doldrums. Is 2013 the season? We'll soon find out.

Defense wins.

It really is that simple.

Nate Sudfeld, if he won the starting QB job, could throw for 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns and that would be great for the Hoosiers.

But defense wins.

The same could be said for Tre Roberson. He could throw for a bunch and run for a bunch more and everyone will talk about how he's just the next Antwaan Randle El for the Hoosiers and it would be a feather in his cap.

But defense wins.

Stephen Houston could have that breakout year that Kevin Wilson and his staff are hoping for and give Wilson his first 1,000-yard back at IU and that, too, would be great for Indiana football.

But defense wins.

Indiana could improve on last year's 30.8 points per game by a complete touchdown. Indiana could average 38 points per game or more and light up the scoreboard every night moving forward.

But unless the Indiana defense goes out and stops somebody it's all a moot point. It all means nothing. Unless IU's defense is appreciably better, the Old Oaken Bucket will be IU's final game of the season. And everybody knows that. Every offensive coordinator in the Big Ten looks forward to facing the Hoosiers because over time someone is going to make a mistake and a big play is going to occur.

That's just the way people think when it comes to Indiana. This is my 16th year covering IU football. In that span, Indiana has gone to one bowl game. ONE!?!? That was 2007 and they may have needed that last second field goal by Austin Starr to get to a bowl game that season.

When was the last time Indiana's defense gave up fewer points than the Indiana offense scored in a season? It was pre-Cam Cameron, I can guarantee you that.

It has always come down to defense in the past and it will once again come down to defense this season. You can see it in practice. So much emphasis is placed on the defensive side of the ball and giving those guys some confidence. And that completely makes sense. If IU is going to go bowling for just the second time since 1994, it will be because the defense stepped up.

It won't be because a player like Shakir Bell ran for 192 yards for Indiana State against IU last fall. It won't be because a Northwestern offense was able to pile up more than 700 yards of offense against Indiana as it did a season ago. It won't be because eight out of IU's final 10 opponents scored 31 points or more against Indiana in 2012.

No, Indiana will advance as far as its defense takes it. You can make all the lofty predictions you want but none of it really matters if IU can't stop anybody on the defensive side of the ball.

Which leads to the most obvious of all questions: Can Indiana's defense stop anybody in 2013?

I really don't know. I've been lulled into a false sense of security there before. I think Indiana has some good coaches on the defensive side of the ball. The question is do the Hoosiers have the athletes needed to take that next step defensively? Time will tell.

In the meantime, everyone will wonder if this is the year it's different for Indiana University football.

The IU defense will make that answer very clearly in the next few months.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/foxsportshutch.

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