After starting the season 3-0, Indiana football has fallen into a dry spell, losing each of their last two games on the road. The Hoosiers have a tough upcoming schedule taking on three teams ranked in the top 10, starting this weekend against No. 4 Michigan.
Ahead of the homecoming game, the Indiana Daily Student football reporters gave their predictions for the rest of the 2022 Indiana football season.
Mid-season Most Valuable Player
JACOB SPUDICH: If he wasn’t already on the radar of any football fan in the country, senior linebacker Cam Jones is the real deal. He is not only turning himself into a dominant college player but appearing on radars for NFL teams come draft time. He is first in the Big Ten in total tackles and eighth in the country.
GARRETT NEWMAN: Before the season got underway, my pick for the most valuable player was senior running back Shaun Shivers, and while it has been an up and down season for the Hoosiers’ rushing attack, he’s not been the most valuable player. Sticking with the consensus, I’ll also pick Cam Jones as the MVP. He has been a tackling machine in the early portion of the season and has filled in for the graduated linebacker Micah McFadden extremely well as the leader of the defense.
WILL FOLEY: Cam Jones was my preseason pick and so far, it looks good. The senior linebacker has 54 total tackles — 16 more than any other Hoosier — along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. His leadership and significance on the field is notable, and he is clearly the most valuable player on either side of the ball.
Biggest surprise of the year
SPUDICH: There’s been a pleasant surprise for Indiana football in junior wide receiver Cam Camper. Tom Allen and the Hoosiers have appeared to find a diamond in the rough with him as so far this year, he has had 33 receptions for 418 yards. The connection between him and redshirt junior quarterback Connor Bazelak is strong, evidenced when Bazelak missed him last game against Nebraska.
NEWMAN: For me, the biggest surprise of the season for Indiana football has been its inability to run the ball consistently. Through the first five weeks of the season, the team has struggled to maintain momentum on the ground, averaging just 105 rushing yards per game while allowing their opponents to rush for 142 on average. Indiana will look to improve in this area as they have been heavily reliant on quarterback Connor Bazelak to make big plays.
FOLEY: To me, the biggest surprise has been Indiana’s offensive strategy. Specifically, junior quarterback Connor Bazelak leading Division I in pass attempts (246) is not something I expected five weeks into the season. The Hoosiers have been slinging the ball around, mostly due to a struggling run game or because they have to play catch-up in their contests. How long this will be sustainable is something I look forward to finding out in the rest of the season.
Mid-season overall thoughts
SPUDICH: It could be better, but it could also be a lot worse. This Hoosiers team is very good when they are at their best, but lack consistency and focus throughout games, leading them to dig themselves in big holes in the first half and having to make up ground for it in the second. The good news is Indiana has already exceeded its win total from last year; the bad news is Indiana still must play three AP top ten teams: Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State along with strong Maryland and Purdue teams. As the season begins to age, the week one win over Illinois looks more impressive week by week. To Indiana fans that have already lost faith after the Nebraska game, the Hoosiers still have the potential to do a lot of damage in the regular season but because of their tough schedule, it definitely won't be easy though.
NEWMAN: Indiana is about where many predicted they would be at this point in the season, with a 3-2 record heading into homecoming week against Michigan. The aspect that is a bit alarming is how the team has gotten its three wins, having to make comebacks in all three. While the Hoosiers are stuck playing a very difficult second half schedule, there remains optimism that they can make a bowl game after the season.
FOLEY: In all honesty, Indiana is lucky to have a winning record right now. Slow starts have set back the Hoosiers in all five contests but have somehow only hurt them twice. The Hoosiers pulled off miraculous comebacks against both Illinois and Western Kentucky University, and it's starting to feel like their luck has run out. There has been very little progression in several noticeable areas this season, such as offensive line issues and a lack of consistent tackling. Indiana has the brunt of its schedule ahead, so it has a long way to go if it wants to continue to win.
Record Predictions and a Bowl Game?:
SPUDICH: Not feeling quite as confident for six wins for the Hoosiers as I was at the beginning of the year. With their tough schedule and a loss to a bad Nebraska team, essentially the rest of the season are “must wins” from a bowl perspective. I would guess at the end of the year Indiana gets placed in some randomly named bowl game played somewhere in Florida.
NEWMAN: While initially I believed six wins was the benchmark for Indiana this season, the loss to Nebraska last week was surprising and with such a difficult remaining schedule, Indiana will need to beat three of its toughest opponents down the stretch. I believe Indiana pulls off an upset against Penn State or one of the teams from Michigan, then beats Maryland and wins the rivalry game against Purdue to sneak into a bowl with six wins. However, do not be shocked if they win just four or five and miss out entirely.
FOLEY: In our preseason roundtable, I was the only one to predict Indiana missing a bowl game, and it seems like that’ll stay true for our midseason edition. I’ve been critical of the Hoosiers this season and part of that is due to their play relative to their competition. I believed last weekend at Nebraska was a must win for Indiana to make a bowl game, and after an uninspiring second-half performance, I think the Hoosiers get one more win at best.