10 bold predictions for Indiana in 2020
After an 8-win campaign in 2019, the Hoosiers want to take another step forward this season.
It’d be a big statement that would take some bold moves, but Indiana has the pieces in place — a dynamic quarterback, veteran playmakers, a solid defensive scheme — to make it happen.
Let’s take a look at our 10 Bold Predictions for the Hoosiers in 2020.
1. Indiana will win a game as an underdog, but lose one as a favorite
Indiana has long sought a “signature” victory, including during its 8-5 campaign in 2019, when it came close with single-digit losses at ranked Michigan State and Penn State (and a victory over sub-.500 Nebraska in Lincoln). Perhaps 2020 is the year. IU is likely to be home underdogs in its first two games in Memorial Stadium, as Penn State and Michigan come to Bloomington, plus it’ll have chances, albeit unlikely ones, at Ohio State and Wisconsin. But the Hoosiers aren’t (yet?) good enough to take anyone for granted, and the Nov. 28 home game vs. Maryland, sandwiched between OSU and Wiscy, should have IU on high alert.
2. Indiana will beat Michigan, breaking a 3-decade drought
Speaking of the upset … this is the year Indiana breaks its 32-year drought and beats the Wolverines. Sounds crazy, right? Well, it might be. But Indiana is due. In 3 of the 4 games since 2010, the Hoosiers have played the Wolverines close (the 39-14 loss last season being the outlier. In 2017, the Hoosiers lost by a touchdown in overtime; it was the same in double OT two years before; and the Hoosiers fell by a touchdown 10 years ago, as well.
3. Michael Penix Jr. will start every game at QB
There’s no bigger key to the Hoosiers’ season than the health of their rising star quarterback. And whether Penix can stay healthy is a legitimate question, considering he’s missed significant time in his first two seasons with the Hoosiers. Last year, he played in six games before injuries sent him to the sideline. Then, though, IU had the luxury of having a veteran backup in former starter Peyton Ramsey, and it hardly missed a beat. Now, it’s Penix or bust. And here’s guessing Tom Allen will do all he can to keep his QB healthy all season long.
4. Grad transfer Javon Swann will pick up at least 4 sacks
Preseason reviews on the Stanford graduate have been positive, leading many to believe that the 6-foot-2, 280-pounder will have a major impact on the IU D-line. The Hoosiers could use pass-rushing help after finishing in the middle of the pack in sacks (in Big Ten games only) with 18 in 9 games. The versatile Swann provides instant credibility after starting 19 games for the Cardinal.
5. Whop Philyor will lead the Big Ten East in catches and receiving yards
A second-team All-Big Ten member in 2019, the Tampa native returned to Bloomington for one final season, looking to help the Hoosiers while bolstering his personal résumé. He’ll do both. Last season, the 5-11, 180-pound wideout snagged 70 receptions for 1,002 yards and 5 touchdowns, finishing 3rd in the Big Ten in per-game averages for receptions and yards. Rondale Moore and Rashod Bateman get the headlines in the West, but Philyor can rule the East.
6. Indiana will finish in the top 5 in offense in the Big Ten
In Big Ten-only games last season — and we’ll look at those because the league is playing a conference schedule this year — the Hoosiers very nearly finished in the top 5 in the four major offensive categories: Scoring, total yards, passing yards and rushing yards. In 2019, that was 6th (29.7), 3rd (450.2 per game), 1st (298.3) and 9th (131.0). New offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan has preached balance during the offseason, and one would think the running game could be improved behind veteran backs Stevie Scott III and Sampson James.
7. IU will again have one of the Big Ten’s better O-lines
Perhaps one of the overlooked units for the Hoosiers, the offensive line is poised to have another solid season. Former left guard Harry Crider moves over to center to anchor the group. With Coy Cronk’s departure — the veteran left for Iowa as a graduate transfer — the Hoosiers bolstered the line with the addition of junior collegr transfers Luke Haggard and Chris Bradberry, plus Stanford grad Dylan Powell, who is likely a starter at guard.
8. IU will struggle to replace Marcello Ball
The Hoosiers suffered one of the Big Ten’s biggest offseason losses when the 5th-year senior safety was lost to an ACL tear in late September. He’ll be hard, if not impossible, to replace. As IU’s starting Husky — the hybrid linebacker/safety in Allen’s defensive scheme — Ball was productive, with 47 tackles and 2 sacks last season. But maybe more than that, he was perhaps one of the Hoosiers’ most experienced players, having started games each season since his freshman year in 2016.
9. Indiana will clean up its act
Well, it can’t get worse. In the 9 Big Ten games last season, Indiana was the league’s most penalized team … by far. The Hoosiers committed 66 infractions — a dozen more than 13th-place Ohio State and almost double conference-best Minnesota — for 629 yards. That’s nearly 70 yards of penalties every game. The Hoosiers must be better.
10. IU’s chance for an above .500 season will hinge on last two games
The Hoosiers must find a way to be at least 2-2 through the first four weeks of the season, a challenge considering the home games vs. Penn State and Michigan. The Thanksgiving weekend game vs. the Terrapins is a must, setting the Hoosiers up with huge games vs. Purdue for the Old Oaken Bucket, then the TBD crossover game on Dec. 19.