Indiana Hoosiers Season Wins Prediction
Despite being stationed in the far tougher Big Ten East, the Indiana Hoosiers acquitted themselves admirably in Tom Allen’s first season at the helm. There wasn’t a much of a step forward with only five wins but Kevin Wilson’s abrupt departure could have spelled doom for a program that struggles to keep pace in the Big Ten. Now in his second season, Allen has some pieces to work with and it should lead to a postseason berth.
A few things stand out from 2017, most notably IU’s inability to handle upper-tier competition. Against Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin, the Hoosiers were outscored 139-52. Nothing suggests they’ve improved enough to turn games of that caliber into wins let alone competitive losses. But outside of those three games offers a more accurate depiction of Indiana’s potential. Against Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland, and Purdue (three of four were on the road) the Hoosiers lost by 7 (OT), 8, 3 and 7, respectively. Note they were able to outgain those four teams by over 200 combined yards. And all five of Indiana’s win came by double-digits; games they should have won and did so in semi-convincing fashion. It’s always tricky to project mediocre teams turning close losses into wins from one year to the next but that was a four-game swatch of winnable games. Based on our game-by-game projections, if just one “coin flip” contest goes their way in 2018, then six or more wins is very attainable.
Before Indiana starts discussing a postseason berth, the offense needs to be shored up in a big way. Their raw numbers look respectable including the third-highest yards per game mark (388.4) in Big Ten play. However, a closer look shows the production was more volume based rather than efficiency (4.82 ypp). This year will be better. For one, the Hoosiers return 126 career starts along the offensive line. Receivers Luke Timian and Nick Westbrook offer all-conference level talent. And the quarterback position, while not 100 percent clear at this time of this writing, should be far more efficient. Three players are in the running for the starting gig and all offer upside. Peyton Ramsey completed 65% of his passes and a 10-5 TD-to-INT ratio as a freshman. Brandon Dawkins spent three seasons at Arizona only to lose his job to Heisman hopeful Khalil Tate. And reports say that four-star true freshman Michael Penix is already game-ready.
The stop unit was the unsung hero for the Hoosiers in 2017, quietly showcasing the ability to perform at a league-average level. In fact, their yards per play and yards per game allowed numbers in Big Ten play were on par with Penn State and Iowa. Duplicating that won’t be easy, especially after losing two key linebackers. But Indiana does welcome back a few key players that missed time due to injury.
As with all season over/under win wagers, schedule plays a big role. The first quarter of the season sets up extremely well with the potential to go 4-1 or even 5-0. Florida International and Ball State are very winnable, as are a home tilt vs. Virginia and a trip to Rutgers. And while Michigan State has garnered a lot of preseason fanfare due to its wealth of returning experience, the Spartans aren’t on the level of Ohio State, and must travel to Bloomington after winning last year’s meeting 17-9 in East Lansing. After that, things get more difficult with a trip to Ohio State and Iowa, Penn State and Michigan looming. However, key games at Minnesota and at home against Maryland and Purdue offer lots of potential to snag late season wins. Note than Indiana’s bye week is favorable — Week 10 and prior to a critical home game against the Terps who are currently dealing with all sorts of issues.
It’s hard to notice Indiana considering their conference and division affiliation. They’ve been outclassed against the elite, competitive against the comparable and dominant vs. the weak — the profile of more than half of college football programs. And while things would really have to break right for 2018 to be “special”, there’s a solid foundation in place and a very reasonable and attainable mark of only six wins to cash our wager.
Regular Season Over/Under Wins Prediction: Over 5.5