Iowa bursts off its bye week with a homecoming game against Indiana Saturday at Kinnick Stadium (11 a.m. CT, ESPNU). The Hoosiers are coming off a 49-24 demolition of North Texas last weekend in Bloomington.
To get our HI readers more acquainted with Indiana, we called on AllHoosiers.com Publisher Terry Hutchens. We presented the longtime IU beat writer with five questions and he knocked them down.
Here you go:
1. Scoring points has been a strength for Indiana for much of the Kevin Wilson Era. I think critics were wondering how much better the Hoosier defense would be in 2014. Is it improved? If yes, how so? And what still are the areas of concern on that side of the ball?
Terry Hutchins: You hit that one absolutely on the head. Offense has never been a problem for Indiana in the Kevin Wilson era. You can make a pretty good argument it wasn't the problem in other eras, too. Defense has always been IU's problem.
Last year, Indiana scored 38 points per game and didn't make a bowl game. That's because the defense gave up 38.8 points per game and nearly 530 yards of total offense. This year, Wilson hired a new defensive coordinator in Brian Knorr and he changed the scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4.
The defense has been better - at times. It was really good at Missouri with guys flying around to the ball and coming up with a total of 11 tackles for loss. It wasn't so good against Maryland when the soft zone reared its ugly head again. The defense played really well, especially in the first 25 minutes Saturday against North Texas but North Texas wasn't very good. So it's hard to tell.
The one noticeable area of improvement on that side of the ball has been with pursuit. That has been much better. And also a lot of guys who played as true freshmen in each of the last two years are now older and experienced and that's coming in handy, too.
2. Tevin Coleman is putting up some impressive numbers. Tell us a little about what makes him so effective. How does he compare to some of the top IU backs you've covered?
TH: Coleman really runs hard and he doesn't get discouraged if things aren't going well early. Against Bowling Green he had 12 yards on the first nine carries and then gained nearly 200 for the game. Against Missouri he scored on the first touchdown drive and then cramped up and missed about a quarter and a half. In the second half he came out and made big play after big play.
Of the backs I've covered in 17 seasons following Indiana I think he's the best. Levron Williams, who was in the backfield when Antwaan Randle El was the quarterback, would be next but Coleman has the ability to make bigger plays at any time. He truly is a big play waiting to happen.
3. Coleman seems to be getting most of the headlines, and rightfully so with his output, but how dangerous are Nate Sudfeld and his receivers? Is it a passing attack that takes a lot of shots down the field or are there more shorter routes where the wideouts make plays after the catch?
TH: The passing game has kind of been an afterthought this season because of the success of the running game. The Indiana State game was the perfect example. ISU made it very clear that it wasn't going to let Sudfeld beat the Sycamores like he did the year before. And so they dropped seven and eight and dared IU to run it. IU obliged with 455 yards rushing on 69 carries.
It has taken a while though for Sudfeld and his receiving corps to gel. IU lost quite a bit at that position a year ago and this year there are three true freshman in the top six receivers.
Sudfeld has lacked the guy who will go up and get the ball in traffic. He had that last year with both Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes. This year he's taking advantage more of the shorter routes and out patterns to get yards. He will keep defenses honest with the deep ball, too, but he has gone more with the sure, safe passes to this point.
4. Iowa has been a pretty steady program during Kirk Ferentz's 16 years at the helm. The Hoosiers are trying to claw their way up the Big Ten ladder. It's not Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin or one of the big names schools, so how do you think Kevin Wilson, his staff and the players view this game?
TH: It's big on a couple of fronts. Indiana lost its Big Ten opener at home to Maryland so falling to 0-2 in conference would be a little more than problematic. There are some winnable games on the IU schedule as the Hoosiers still play Michigan, Purdue and Rutgers and even Penn State, a team IU beat at home last season.
I think the players perhaps view this game in a different light after having gone on the road and defeated Missouri. So they're feeling good away from home. As far as facing Iowa, I think the staff and players see it as a game they believe they should be competitive in.
5. Overall, as a program, where does Indiana stand? Has Wilson been able to ignite the fans base? How stable is he in his job?
TH: Wilson got off to a bit of a rocky start with the fan base in his first year but seems to have bounced back in that regard. Fans have been happy with his last two recruiting classes and he's building a good one this year, too.
IU fans want bowl games on a consistent basis, something that hasn't been done for a long time. In fact, IU has only been to one bowl game (2007) in the last 20 years. Last year IU missed that bowl game by one win and so fans are hungry for that to happen. I think Wilson's job is safe. Now, if IU went belly up at this point and finished 3-9 his seat would be warm but I don't see that happening.