Last year was bad even by Indiana football standards.
We are now at the end of our annual summer preview series. Even with the late start knocking out two of these per week allowed me to catch up quickly. With Media Days wrapped up yesterday and the season officially starting five weeks from today it is finally starting to feel like football season.
As always, we end our preview series with the Indiana Hoosiers. Just 365 days ago Purdue and Indiana were pretty much in opposite places in the hierarchy. The Boilers were coming off of consecutive losing seasons and there were whispers about Jeff Brohm and if he was really the guy. Indiana was coming off of two of their best seasons in decades, were a preseason top 20 team loaded with experience, and Tom Allen was regarded as one of the better coaches in the league. The Bucket was in Bloomington since the 2019 double overtime Hoosier win and on paper it looked like it was going to stay a while.
It’s been quite a flip. Purdue won nine games for the first time in 18 years, upset a pair of top 5 teams, and beat an SEC team in a bowl game, something the Hoosiers failed to do in 2019 and 2020. Indiana had a horrible season even by Indiana standards. Instead of #9Windiana we got 9 win Purdue and the Bucket was safely back in West Lafayette.
At least they won the basketball series last year on aggregate by a point, which is more important to both schools anyway.
Indiana is now the team facing a ton of questions. Can they bounce back in 2022?
2021 Record: 2-10, 0-9 Big Ten
Bowl Result: None
Blog Representation: Crimson Quarry
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 75-42-6
Last Purdue win: 44-7 at Purdue on 11/27/2021
Last Indiana win: 44-41 (2OT) at Purdue on 11/30/2019
Head Coach: Tom Allen (26-32 in 6th season at Indiana)
Last Season for the Hoosiers
In short, it was a disaster. With a wealth of talent returning, especially on defense, the Hoosiers began the 2021 season ranked 17th in the AP Poll. It was the first time since 1969 that the Hoosiers were ranked in the preseason AP top 25, and they were considered a contender in the rough and tumble Big Ten East. There was even one ESPN article that had them as a dark horse CFB playoff candidate, which actually made some sense. If you can win the Big Ten East with the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State you’ll be in the conversation.
Things did not go according to plan.
Much like Northwestern in Tuesday’s preview, things were disastrous almost immediately. After “Indinia” became a meme as the team ran out of the tunnel in Iowa City to start the season they were quickly down 14-0. Tyler Goodson’s 56 yard TD run and Riley Moss’ 30 yard pick-six had them down two scores just 2:15 into their dream season.
It never got better from that point. Michael Penix Jr. got hurt yet again, derailing the offense. The defense also sustained a ton of injuries. Offensively, Indiana was 123rd out of 130 nationally in scoring at just 17.2 points per game. Even worse, 113 of their 207 points scored on the season came in their three non-conference games. They averaged a dismal 10.4 points per game in conference play, and if you consider 35 of those 94 points total were scored in one game against Maryland the average for the other eight conference games was an appalling 7.4.
Indiana very nearly went 0-for-FBS, as their one FBS level win was 33-31 over an admittedly good Western Kentucky team on the road. That was their last win to date. Aside from a 20-15 home loss to Michigan State and 38-35 road loss to Maryland this team got absolutely blown out most weeks. The defense still had its moments, but the offense was one of the worst we have seen in Big Ten play in quite some time. 2019 Rutgers scored only 51 points in nine Big Ten games and was shutout four times. Indiana was not much better.
As intimated above, it was really, really bad. Only Northwestern was slightly worse overall, and the Wildcats were still better in Big Ten play (even winning a game!). They were 113th nationally in passing and 113th in rushing. In total offense they were 124th, and again, this was actually brough up by a 56-14 win over FCS Idaho and the non-conference games against Cincinnati and Western Kentucky. In conference play the Hoosiers only averaged 250 yards total per game. That’s a good half for Aidan O’Connell.
It turns out that when you place your hopes on an oft-injured quarterback things don’t work out. Penix didn’t play after a 24-0 loss at Penn State on October 2nd and has now transferred to Washington. Backup Jack Tuttle was injured against Ohio State and only played sparingly against Rutgers the rest of the way. Touted freshman Donaven McCulley struggled and has since shifted to wide receiver. By the Bucket game walk-on Grant Gremel was starting and after leading Indiana to a touchdown on their opening drive against Purdue he did little to nothing the rest of the afternoon.
Tuttle is back as the perennial backup trying to start, and Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak was pretty good as a starter for the Tigers last year. He threw for 2,548 yards and 16 touchdowns against 11 picks. That was significantly better than all of Indiana’s quarterbacks combined, as they threw for a combined 2,106 yards and nine touchdowns with 16 interceptions.
On the ground Indiana hit the transfer market hard with Shaun Shivers (Auburn) and Josh Henderson (North Carolina) bringing a lot of experience. Charlie Spegal, the all-time leading rusher in Indiana HS history is also still around looking for a larger role.
The receivers need an overhaul with the departure of Ty Fryfogle and Peyton Hendershot. Another North Carolina transfer, Emory Simmons, is expected to be a top option as well as JuCo transfer Cam Camper. DJ Matthews was also promising last year.
Much of the Indiana offense will rely on an offensive line that was awful last year. Indiana quarterbacks were sacked 29 times and the running game never really got going.
Indiana’s defense was pretty good in 2020 and had a lot of promise going into last year. It was left out to dry by the horrendous offense and injuries took their toll. They finished last in scoring in the Big Ten at 33.3 points per game. They were not particularly good at anything, and even Purdue’s anemic rushing attack ran for 167 yards on them.
The defense is undergoing a overhaul, complete with new coordinator. The return of Tiawan Mullen from injury should help a lot. He was a First Team All-American in 2020 but missed a lot of last season with injury. He is a disruptive cover corner that is also adept at slicing into the backfield on a corner blitz. Jaylin Williams and Devon Matthews give them experience in the secondary, but the Hoosiers only intercepted 5 passes as a team last year.
After the departure of all-world linebacker Micah McFadden Bradley Jennings Jr. will try to become the new leader of the defense. He is a transfer from Da U that had 39 tackles and three sacks in 2020. Cam Jones is also back after getting 63 tackles and a sack, but the loss of McFadden is large. He led the team with 6.5 sacks, but the rest of the team had just 9.5.
The front four is also heavy on transfers. JH Tevis (Cal), Myles Jackson (UCLA), and LeDarrius Cox (Mississippi) are expected to be immediate impact guys up front.
Indiana Special Teams
The Indiana offense was often too bad to get into field goal range last year, but when it did, it was at least accurate. Charles Campbell was 13 of 18 on field goals with a long of 55. He and Chris Freeman were a spotless 22 of 22 on extra points. Since every Big Ten team is required by law to have a punter from the Southern Hemisphere they have James Evans, who averaged 41.8 yards per kick in his first season from New Zealand.
In the return game Matthews, the receiver mentioned above, was good. He did have a punt returned for a touchdown. He might see some time on kickoff returns this year.
Surely Indiana can’t be as bad as they were last year, right? They are running back the same non-conference schedule as last year, only with Western Kentucky coming to Bloomington and a trip to Cincy. Their first two conference games are at home against Illinois and at Nebraska, so the potential is there for a fast start.
They still have a brutal middle stretch with the East’s big four. If they don’t beat Western Kentucky and Idaho it is going to be extremely difficult for them to get to a bowl game. This is a team with a lot of questions and they are trying to answer them with a boatload of transfers. There are a whopping 18 transfers on the roster from FBS programs. The talent is there, and they really can’t be worse than last year.
With this being the final game of the year it is the hardest one to call. At this time last year Indiana was projected as one of the best teams in the country. They didn’t win a conference game. They won’t be as bad as they were last year, but it is still Indiana. Purdue 35, Indiana 28