How is one supposed to judge a sports team? Is it by statistics and analytics, the so-called “eye test,” or a combination of both?
The topic is pretty arbitrary, and most times fans struggle to agree. But, one thing you can look at with certainty is record. No matter how good or bad a team looks or the statistical outputs they produce, what was the outcome?
That is what all Indiana fans should be looking at right now— for the sake of their sanity. The Hoosiers made it to 3-0 to start the season; that’s all there is to it.
Looking past all of the concerns so far, 3-0 is a good start but was somewhat expected. However, once you consider how we got here, it’s astonishing.
Indiana’s season-opener against Big Ten opponent Illinois required a late 75-yard touchdown drive to snatch victory from the Illini. Following that, the Hoosiers trailed the University of Idaho 10-0 at halftime and looked like they forgot how to play the sport.
After a second half recovery against the Vandals, Indiana trailed Western Kentucky University last weekend from 11:44 in the second quarter until senior kicker Charles Campbell’s game-winning field goal in overtime.
To summarize in a word: wow.
But the Hoosiers made it to 3-0, and what’s ahead for Indiana is certainly no better. That starts this weekend as the Hoosiers take their first road trip of the season to face the University of Cincinnati.
While the Bearcats aren’t the College Football Playoff team they were last year, they’re still a formidable opponent. To make a comparison, they’re probably better than all three teams Indiana has beaten so far.
It doesn’t get any better afterward either. All eight Big Ten opponents Indiana will face should provide a challenge for them, which was evident last year. And, yes, even Nebraska.
All that considered, this weekend seems like a crossroads for the Hoosiers. It’s time for Indiana to find its identity for the remainder of the season.
There are really only two options. Option A: Indiana competes for most of every game, doesn't shoot itself in the foot with mistakes, addresses its current problems and improves throughout the season. This is obviously the preferred route for Hoosier fans and would likely lead to multiple conference wins and a bowl berth.
Or, there’s the dreaded option B: the Hoosiers play one good half at best every contest, suffer from crucial mistakes continuously, face the same problems with no resolution and remain a stagnant team. If that’s the case, Indiana would be lucky to win even a couple games in its last nine.
So, which will it be? While the outcome of the Cincinnati game won’t necessarily determine that, the manner in which the outcome is reached might.