Contrary to what those who have read my Indiana football columns throughout 2021 might think, I am not one for negativity. I believe college football is an extremely enjoyable sport, and even fans of programs in a downward spiral usually have at least a few things to celebrate.
Take Indiana, for example.
Sure, this hasn’t been the season many Hoosier faithfuls expected. Aside from the Chick-fil-A helmet shuffle and junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. standing on the sidelines due to a potentially season-ending injury, game day at Memorial Stadium just hasn’t been what we’re used to.
Nevertheless, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Let’s run through some of the reasons why you shouldn’t take your eyes off Indiana as it enters the back half of its schedule.
Micah McFadden is very good at football
On Michigan State’s opening drive Saturday, running back Kenneth Walker III took a handoff up the middle on third and one. Instead of sprinting untouched for a massive gain, the nation’s leading rusher met Indiana senior linebacker Micah McFadden two yards behind the line of scrimmage.
I am not one for conventional masculinity. Most of that stuff is pretty outdated and gross.
That said, McFadden single handedly throwing Walker to the ground was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It made me want to chop firewood, bathe infrequently, develop a fear of emotional commitment and do all the other things manly dudes like to do.
When football announcers run out of talking points, they often call linebackers the quarterback of the defense. If that’s true, I think fans would have a tough time finding a better one on either side of the ball for Indiana.
We still don’t totally know what we’re getting at quarterback
If you’re a fan of a team with a struggling offense — which I assume you are if you’re reading this — you’ve probably spent a great deal of time imagining what that offense would look like with someone else under center. There’s an undeniable intrigue to a backup quarterback, no matter how much better or worse than the starter he actually is.
What could be more exciting than a backup quarterback? That’s right — two backup quarterbacks.
Enter junior Jack Tuttle and freshman Donaven McCulley. Tuttle and McCulley started the season No. 2 and No. 3 behind Penix. Since Penix’s injury, head coach Tom Allen has entrusted Tuttle with the starting job and McCulley with the esteemed honor of pitching the ball to a running back every once in a while.
It’s still unclear how and to what extent Allen and offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan plan to utilize the pair of signal callers. What’s certain is there are few things more thrilling than seeing a brave, new face taking snaps behind one of college football’s most OK offensive lines.
There’s always Charles Campbell
Writers, broadcasters and basically anyone who has watched a microsecond of Indiana football in 2021 have criticized its offense. However, the Hoosiers do have one reliable scoring threat in junior kicker Charles Campbell.
Campbell is 10-12 on field goal attempts this season, including a perfect 5-5 from 40-49 yards. His 42 total points account for 54% of the Hoosiers’ scores against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
For those who aren’t familiar with the structure of Division I college football, that’s every opponent Indiana has faced aside from the University of Idaho.
In the age of name, image and likeness deals, I’m frustrated the Campbell Soup Company hasn’t reached out to Indiana’s special teams phenomenon. It would take a piping hot bowl of Campbell’s Chunky to thaw the ice constantly coursing through Campbell’s veins.
Even if you’re disappointed by the Hoosiers’ on-field performances in 2021, I hope I’ve cheered you up a bit. I promise this sudden jolt of optimism has nothing to do with the fact that No. 5 Ohio State is almost certainly going to rip Indiana limb from limb Saturday night.
Like I said, I’m just a really positive guy.