It’s easy to say Indiana football’s 2-7 record isn’t actually representative of the team’s caliber. Today, we’re going to stop living in the hypothetical and examine the Hoosiers piece by piece to determine whether it’s actually any better than its record.
Junior Michael Penix Jr., junior Jack Tuttle and freshman Donaven McCulley’s quarterback ratings are 101.9, 96 and 112.4 respectively, all of which rank outside the top 100 in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Nevertheless, I truly believe a healthy version of all three could lead an offense that wasn’t completely broken to at least a .500 record.
Verdict: Pretty rough, but definitively better than 2-7.
Running backs not plural enough
Graduate student Stephen Carr displays excellent vision and patience, but he seldom finds holes in the defense if they even exist in the first place.
Since junior Sampson James and sophomore Tim Baldwin Jr. transferred and junior David Ellis underwent season-ending ankle injury, the Indiana running back room has looked like a sitcom in its later seasons after all but one or two of the original cast leave for bigger projects.
Verdict: There’s too much talent to go 2-7, but too little depth to do much better.
Receivers are largely dependent on quarterback play, but a roster with this much skill probably should have generated more than 188 yards against Michigan State, currently the worst-ranked pass defense in the Football Bowl Subdivison.
Indiana’s leading receiver is a tight end. It’s fourth leading receiver is graduate student D.J. Matthews Jr., who hasn’t played a down of football since he tore his ACL six weeks ago.
Verdict: Their potential is way above 2-7, but they’ve been playing way below it.
Evaluating the offensive line is the football equivalent of turning a computer off and on again. If something’s not right, chances are it starts in the trenches.
Senior tackle Caleb Jones catches a lot of flack because he is 6 foot 8 inches, 362 pounds and our eyes tell us a human that large shouldn’t get beaten so often. However, the entire line has underwhelmed, allowing the second most quarterback pressures in the Big Ten.
Verdict: If you asked me to envision a 2-7 offensive line, this would be pretty close.
The fact that Indiana’s line held Michigan State junior running back Kenneth Walker III to just 84 yards on 23 carries speaks to its run-stopping ability.
The fact that it only sacked Maryland junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa twice on over 40 dropbacks speaks to just about everything else.
If you only run the ball against the Hoosiers, you’re in for a rough day. You have a reasonably competent quarterback, you say? Carry on then.
Verdict: You shouldn’t expect to do much better than .500 in the Big Ten if you can’t win at the line of scrimmage.
I still believe senior Micah McFadden is the best reason to watch Indiana football. He leads the team in tackles with 55 total and is tied for fourth nationally with 15 tackles for loss.
Although he might not be the dynamo McFadden is, senior Cam Jones is a veteran presence who also tackles very hard and very often.
Verdict: It is a downright shame this linebacking corps is saddled with everything else around it.
The Hoosiers are currently 12th in the Big Ten in passing yards allowed per game and next to last in interceptions.
That looks grim but requires a bit more context. Senior Devon Matthews, senior Jaylin Wiliams, sophomore Josh Sanguinetti, junior Tiawan Mullen and senior Reese Taylor have all missed at least one game in 2021. That’s a lot of experience and talent standing on the sidelines.
Verdict: Very underwhelming until you consider it’s basically the second team.
Junior kicker Charles Campbell has scored 37% of Indiana’s points against Big Ten opponents. Freshman punter James Evans had a really nice punt in the first quarter at Michigan. Senior Jared Smolar produces the kind of kickoffs that return men love to fair catch.
Verdict: Surely you don’t have beef with the special teams given everything else, right?
Let me check Twitter real quick.
Verdict: The vibe is not good, guys.