This is the 10th in a 12-week Friday series looking at the Wisconsin football team’s 2013 opponents.
The good news for Indiana’s football team was it figured out a way to push the tempo offensively and score points in a hurry last season. The bad news? Indiana didn’t learn to stop anybody on defense.
And so, during a season in which the Hoosiers averaged 30.8 points per game — fourth in the Big Ten — they managed to surrender 35.2 points per game, which ranked dead last in the conference. Indiana actually controlled its postseason destiny with three games remaining in 2012 and collapsed under the pressure and competition. Indiana allowed an average of 54 points per outing over its final three games against Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue.
Will 2013 be any better? It probably has to for coach Kevin Wilson to feel secure about his job.
Wilson’s reputation as an offensive genius was solidified last season at Indiana, when the Hoosiers improved their scoring average by 9.4 points over the previous season. Wilson served as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma before coming to Indiana, and he guided the Sooners to some magical seasons. In 2008, Oklahoma set an NCAA record by scoring 716 points, which included six consecutive 50-point games.
The points are nice, of course. But what good are they if it doesn’t result in a victory? Indiana’s players probably weren’t too thrilled after they scored 49 points against Ohio State, only to allow 52 in a three-point loss last season.
With games against Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State, Indiana will be in a fight just to reach .500 in conference play this season. The last time the Hoosiers actually went 4-4 in the Big Ten was back in 2001 — and they failed to reach a bowl game.
Progress in Year 3 under Wilson would be a six-win season and an appearance in a lower-tier bowl game. But at Indiana, you’ve got to start somewhere. The Hoosiers haven’t been to a bowl game in six seasons.
Personnel: Much like Wisconsin, Indiana will open fall practices with a three-man race for the starting quarterback job. Cam Coffman, Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld all have experience playing for the Hoosiers, so the coaching staff will have to decide which quarterback gives them the best chance to win.
Coffman took over last season after Robersen was injured and threw for 2,734 yards with 15 touchdowns. Roberson, meanwhile, began the year as the team’s starting quarterback but suffered a broken leg. He passed for a career-high 280 yards in a season-opening victory against Indiana State.
Sudfeld threw for 632 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman and was impressive during Indiana’s spring game, when he completed 14 of 16 passes for 187 yards. Whoever emerges certainly will have earned it.
At running back, Indiana will rely on senior Stephen Houston (749 yards, 12 touchdowns), junior D’Angelo Roberts (300 yards, three touchdowns) and sophomore Tevin Coleman (225 yards, one touchdown), although the strength of the team should be its receivers.
At wide receiver, Indiana may have one of the best units in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers’ top three receivers are back: Shane Wynn (67 catches, 648 yards, six touchdowns), Cody Latimer (51 catches, 805 yards, six touchdowns) and Kofi Hughes (43 catches, 639 yards, three touchdowns). With Duwyce Wilson and Nick Stoner also in the mix after combining to catch 34 passes for 348 yards, the Hoosiers are absolutely loaded.
Expect Indiana’s offensive production to rank among the Big Ten leaders once again. The question is whether the Hoosiers’ defense can keep the team in games.
Indiana loses defensive tackles Adam Replogle and Larry Black but will look to junior college transfers Jordan Heiderman and Christopher Cormier. Heiderman tallied 43 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season at Iowa Western Community College. Defensive ends Zack Shaw (29 tackles, two sacks) and Ryan Phillis (34 tackles, three sacks) will have to play a bigger role.
Junior David Cooper returns at middle linebacker after starting all 12 games and recording 86 tackles with nine for a loss. He’ll likely be joined by some combination of Griffen Dahlstrom (48 tackles), Forisse Hardin (48 tackles) and Chase Hoobler (26 tackles).
Although Indiana’s pass defense wasn’t particularly good last season, ranking ninth out of 12 Big Ten teams, the Hoosiers do return two starting safeties. Senior Greg Heban (91 tackles, three interceptions) and junior Mark Murphy (70 tackles) will provide veteran leadership. Senior cornerback Antonio Marshall also should be a returning starter after appearing in 11 games last season with seven starts.
Fun fact No. 1: Indiana hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2007, and that team finished 3-5 in the Big Ten. Since 2008, Indiana’s Big Ten record is 5-35 (.125 winning percentage). Five Big Ten teams won as many or more games in the conference last season as Indiana has the past five seasons — Ohio State (eight), Nebraska (seven), Penn State (six), Michigan (six) and Northwestern (five).
Fun fact No. 2: Wisconsin has won eight consecutive games in its series against Indiana, which including a record-setting 83-point performance in 2010. During the Badgers’ eight-game winning streak, they have outscored Indiana 416-133. The average score of the last three games: 68-14.
It could be worse: Kevin Wilson’s 5-19 record in two seasons at Indiana doesn’t exactly provide him with tons of job security. But it is a better mark than the one he attained during his lone season as a varsity high school football coach. In 1989, Wilson coached at Fred T. Foard High School in North Carolina. His team finished 0-10.