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OPINION: Losing Michael Penix Jr. is a huge loss for IU football



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Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. throws the ball Sept. 28 in Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. Penix had season-ending surgery Monday. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

I get it; this is not a hot take.

Hear me out. 

The loss of freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to a right sternoclavicular joint injury — shoulder/collarbone in layman’s terms — is a crushing blow for IU football.

This is not meant to be a slight against junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who will start the rest of the season in Penix’s absence. Ramsey has done a better than fine job filling in for Penix during his two previous injuries this season. 

The Cincinnati native has put up strong stats in the seven games he has played in, having thrown for more than 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Ramsey led IU to its biggest win in decades and perhaps played his best game of his college career in the 38-31 win over Nebraska.

In a year where starting quarterbacks have dropped like flies in both college football and the NFL, IU is incredibly lucky to have a guy like Ramsey. 

The Hoosier backup has proven that he can be a steady hand behind center who will make smart decisions as a passer. Ramsey will not lose IU any games at quarterback.

In IU’s five games against Eastern Illinois University, University of Connecticut, Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska, Ramsey has had a quarterback rating [QBR] of 97.9, 64.8, 75.4 and 89.9.

However, Ramsey has still struggled when the Hoosiers have faced good defenses. IU has only faced two defenses that are ranked in the top 60 of ESPN’s S&P+ defensive rankings: top-ranked Ohio State and 21st-ranked Northwestern.

Ramsey struggled during his playing time in both games, posting a poor 33.6 QBR against the Buckeyes and a 57.4 QBR versus the Wildcats.

The IU offense has been efficient against bad defenses under Ramsey, but it has been explosive when Penix has taken snaps, no matter who the opponent in. 

Penix proved in East Lansing, Michigan, earlier this season that he can compete with the best defenses in college football. 

The freshman completed a school record 20 consecutive passes against the 11th-best defense in the country. Penix was 33/42 for 286 yards and a trio of touchdowns and posted a 93.1 QBR.

Against Northwestern, Penix had already thrown for 162 yards in less than a half of play before leaving the game with injury and finished the game with a 92.2 QBR.

Why does all of this matter? 

The Hoosiers are sitting with a 7-2 record with a great chance to get an eighth victory at Purdue to end the season.

But without Penix, the chance to win nine or 10 games likely goes out the window. After IU’s bye week, IU faces a pair of the top six defenses in Penn State and Michigan.

Even if Penix played, the Hoosiers likely won’t win in State College. However, IU perhaps has its best shot in years to beat Michigan. 

A win over the Wolverines would not only give the Hoosiers their first win over the team from Ann Arbor, Michigan, since 1987, but it would also virtually guarantee a nine-win season for just the third time in school history. There would then be the chance to win double digit games for the first time in program history by winning a bowl game.

No matter what happens moving forward, 2019 will go down as a special season for the Hoosiers.

However, it likely will be remembered for what could have been instead of how great of a season it was.

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