That's not to slight Wisconsin, which obviously has to do a lot of things right to beat Indiana by 50 points every year, but it is just uncanny to watch this unfold regularly. Last week it also looked like Indiana, the finesse, spread team, was much more bothered by the rainy, windy conditions than was Wisconsin, the smash-mouth team. A handful of big mistakes early put the Hoosiers in a hole they couldn't get out of, and I don't think it did much for their state of mind, either.
Every other week, Indiana has a very dangerous passing game with a decent quarterback and a deep corps of talented, big receivers. Cody Latimer (from Dayton Jefferson) and Kofi Hughes got 6-3 and 6-2, respectively, and both weigh over 210 pounds while Shane Wynn is pretty much the prototypical slot receiver at 5-7, 170, and lightning quick. He just looks like he is moving at a different speed than everyone else at times. Tight end Ted Bolser, a senior from Cincinnati, is also a solid receiver and blocker.
Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson share quarterback duties with Sudfeld playing most of the time. He is a 6-5, 230-pound pocket passer who has a strong but relatively inaccurate arm, and he is pretty limited athletically. Roberson is a dual-threat guy who before breaking his leg last year looked like a future Big Ten star but is used more as a runner than a passer.
Sudfeld has to be in a rhythm and will struggle if knocked off his spot. Most teams don't seem to fear Roberson as a passer and check down to more aggressive looks when he is in the game. That may be more a function of play calling than physical ability.
The offensive line is young but has shown some positive signs after being a weak point the past couple of years. They do a good job making room for running backs Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston. Coleman is probably out with an ankle injury, which is a big loss for Indiana because he is a breakaway threat at 6-1, 205 pounds. Houston is bigger (230) but still runs well and has some wiggle for a guy his size.
This is a pass-first, hurry-up spread team, but the running game is a nice change of pace with a couple of guys who can break a tackle and make you pay for missing a fit.
Defensively, the numbers don't lie – this team has really struggled in basically all facets of stopping people, especially on the ground.
However, I do think there is some new blood in the program that is showing some promise. That starts with freshmen linebackers T.J. Simmons and Clyde Newton, two guys from Florida who can run and deliver a blow. I am very interested to see how those guys develop over the next few years. Newton is only a recent addition to the starting lineup.
Up front, freshman Ralphael Green has flashed some potential as a run-stuffer at 6-5, 307. He moves pretty well for his size – perhaps a poor man's Johnathan Hankins. They rotate a lot at end and tackle with production varying. Freshman tackle Darius Latham also showed up a few times against Illinois making plays in the backfield.
End John Laihinen leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss, but he is listed as a backup and has never jumped off the screen in any of the handful of games I have watched. Sophomore Nick Mangieri flashed against Penn State, but of course that was working against the tackles that Ohio State had its way with.
Indiana more than anything has a problem with fits. They gave up a handful of big plays to Illinois and also got hurt by overplaying against the run at Wisconsin, which smartly attacked the backside with and end around for a touchdown and a big run by Melvin Gordon on a counter play.
As much as the young linebackers are intriguing, the safeties have to make way too many tackles – and neither of them really come across as standouts.
I think just in general Indiana still has a ways to go in learning how to win games. They look better physically, and I think Kevin Wilson has the potential to do good things there as head coach if they give him time to do it.
I'm not sure he has the right quarterback in place yet, but Sudfeld and Roberson both have two more years to develop in his quarterback-friendly system.