It’s finally here.
It’s the moment Indiana fans have been waiting for. It’s time to find out if the 2014 Indiana football season will be any different than recent seasons that have left IU on the outside looking in for bowl competition.
Indiana has now gone six seasons in a row without playing in a bowl game. The only time in recent memory that the Hoosiers accomplished that feat was when IU went 7-5 in 2007 when they were attempting to ‘Play 13’ for the late Terry Hoeppner.
IU followed up that bowl appearance in the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma State with a 3-8 campaign in 2008. The record in ’09 was 4-8 followed by 5-7 in 2010. That ushered in the Kevin Wilson era of IU football and Indiana has managed to go 1-11, 4-8 and 5-7 in three seasons under Wilson.
Total that up and since the last time IU was in a bowl game, the Hoosiers have gone 22-49 over the last six seasons.
So why should this season be any different? What makes optimism so high for the 2014 football season?
As always it comes down to the defense. And many people believe that this defense will be appreciably better than it was a year ago. And last season, the Hoosiers averaged 38.4 points per game but gave up 38.8 points per game.
In games where Indiana surrendered 40 points or less, the Hoosiers were 5-0.
Think about that. IU lost games last year where it scored 45, 28, 28, 47 and 39 points. Allow just 30 points in three of those games, and IU has three more wins.
But that’s the reason for the optimism. Most people feel that Nate Sudfeld, Tevin Coleman and Shane Wynn and company are poised to put on an offensive show once again in 2014. And as long as Sudfeld can stay healthy, I have to believe that will be true. With no Tre Roberson or even Cam Coffman waiting in the wings this season, IU can’t afford to have anything happen to Sudfeld.
But if he stays healthy, IU should be fun to watch again on offense.
And so it comes down to defense. Indiana has everyone back pretty much but it’s experience from a defense that surrendered 38.8 points and an average of 527.9 yards per game last year.
Still, the excitement level is there because IU has a new defensive coordinator in Brian Knorr, a new defensive scheme in the 3-4, and a lot of good young talent. A lot of people played right away the last two years as true freshmen and now they have some experience. And there are a lot of good, young freshmen that could play right away this season, too.
So, does Indiana turn the corner, have even an average defense, and find a way to win six games?
While I’d like to say yes, one thing that covering IU football for 17 years has taught me is that looks can be deceiving.
Unfortunately, I’m one of those people that needs to be shown that there’s a reason for optimism.
Beginning Saturday at 12 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, we’ll start to get a feel for if things are any different this season than they have been in recent years.
I would think by late Saturday afternoon, we’ll have a lot better feel for if there is reason for optimism or if it’s going to be another long Indiana football season.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch