Indiana might be B1G contender if this were any other year
Timing is everything.
It seems like Indiana was able to land defensive coordinator Tom Allen just in time. After finishing last in the B1G in nearly every major statistical category defensively – scoring, pass defense and total defense – the program was in desperate need of someone who could provide a spark. It needed someone who could scheme more effectively and develop talent quicker.
With the high-powered offense that’s synonymous with Kevin Wilson, improvement on the other side of the ball would only push the program in the right direction.
So far, though, Allen’s arrival looks like a saving grace. Indiana’s offense, the one that has racked up points and yardage as frequently as anyone in the B1G over the past five years, suddenly isn’t firing as well as it has in the past. The only reason the Hoosiers have been competitive since 2011 has been thanks to a unit that could score virtually at will.
Midway through the season, though, it’s not the offense that’s picking up the slack. It’s Allen’s defense that’s keeping Indiana in games.
After six games, the Hoosiers defense is holding opponents to an average of 25.3 points per game. If that hovers around the same area in the second half of the season, it’ll be the best average for the program by more than a touchdown per game. They’re limiting teams to 166.7 yards per game on the ground and 205.8 yards through the air. Once again, those would be Indiana’s top numbers during Wilson’s tenure.
Remember that timing thing?
Yeah, it’s nice that Allen is on the sideline now. It’s conceivable that, without an improved defense, Indiana could be sitting on the wrong side of .500 with hopes of consecutive bowl appearances dwindling away. Instead, its at 3-3 with Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue – three very winnable games – still on the schedule.
But some of the nerves have to be twitching for Hoosier fans. Something that’s just not sitting quite right.
If Allen was wearing the cream and crimson in 2015, how good would that team have been? Or maybe the even better question; what if the offense wasn’t hammered by injuries? What if it was operating at its typical, dynamic rate?
The Hoosiers wouldn’t be worrying about a simple bowl bid. No, they’d be a serious contender in the B1G East. Even with the likes of Ohio State and Michigan, Indiana would be in the mix.
Look at the last two weeks for evidence.
Because of Allen’s defense, the Hoosiers competed with Ohio State and Nebraska, a pair of top 10 teams, in back-to-back weekends.
They held Ohio State to 38 points two weeks ago. That number may seem a little high, but the Buckeyes entered that game averaging 57 points per contest. J.T. Barrett wasn’t able to get into a rhythm, completing just 9-of-21 passes for 93 yards.
The Hoosiers held the B1G’s top offense to 383 yards, it’s lowest output of the year.
One week later, in a disappointing 27-22 loss to Nebraska, Indiana again was the cause of its opponent’s least effective outing. The Huskers hadn’t been held under 400 yards all season. They ended the day with 360 against the Hoosiers.
Pretty good, right? Take a look at the impact Allen has made in just a few short months in Bloomington:
|Defense||2015 Average (B1G rank)||2016 Average (B1G rank)|
|Opponent scoring||37.6 ppg (14th)||25.3 ppg (9th)|
|Passing yards allowed||313.8 ypg (14th)||205.8 ypg (10th)|
|Rushing yards allowed||195.7 ypg (13th)||166.7 ypg (9th)|
|Total yards allowed||509.5 ypg (14th)||372.5 ypg (8th)|
|Turnovers forced||22 (3rd)||11 (5th)|
That defensive presence would’ve been welcomed last year when the Hoosiers surrendered, 52 points to Michigan State, 55 to Rutgers and 48 to Michigan. Still, thanks to a potent offensive attack, Indiana was within eight points in five of their seven losses.
Allen has cured some of those issues. But now, Indiana’s offense isn’t living up to its end of the bargain.
Last year, Nate Sudfeld led the B1G in passing and running backs Jordan Howard and Devine Redding joined the 1,000-yard club. Simmie Cobbs Jr., Ricky Jones and Mitchell Paige proved to be reliable targets throughout the year.
Unfortunately, Sudfeld and Howard moving on and injuries to Cobb, J-Shun Harris and others have hindered Indiana’s productivity. The offense that’s often one of league’s most unstoppable is currently enduring one of its worst seasons.
Here’s what Indiana’s offense has done through six games:
|Offense||2015 Average (B1G rank)||2016 Average (B1G rank)|
|Scoring||36.5 ppg (1st)||25.8 ppg (11th)|
|Passing yards||293.8 ypg (1st)||285.0 (2nd)|
|Rushing yards||210.5 (2nd)||148.5 (11th)|
|Total yards||504.3 ypg (1st)||433.5 ypg (5th)|
|Turnovers||14 (T-1st)||11 (9th)|
Yeah, the Hoosiers have dropped in every category. They still have one of the conference’s top passing attacks, but struggling to run the football and punch the ball across the goal line has hurt Indiana in losses to Wake Forest, Ohio State and Nebraska.
Go ahead, scroll back up. Put the 2015 offensive numbers with the 2016 defensive statistics. That would be a fun team to watch. Wilson wouldn’t have to worry about fans leaving early or clinging to bowl eligibility by his fingernails. That’s a team that would have a legitimate chance to book a reservation for the Lucas Oil Stadium turf.
But Allen arrived to late. Or Indiana’s offense checked out a season early. However you look at it, the two units aren’t on the same page.
There is some optimism for IU fans, a reason to start buying into Wilson and Hoosier football, if you haven’t already.
Defensively, Indiana has made huge strides in just one year under Allen. And the struggles offensively are likely a momentary blip, due to losing NFL-caliber talent and a plethora of injuries at several key positions. Failing to find the end zone isn’t going to be a long-term issue, not as long as Wilson is calling the shots.
The program has already made a huge leap. Even at 3-3, you get the sense that Indiana is starting to turn a corner. That it will soon start competing with some of the B1G’s blue bloods. Allen has brought the defense to life and is no longer the doormat of the conference.
Wilson just needs to get his offense back to looking like its 2015-self.