For as long as most of us can remember Hoosiers football has been a joke. Outside of the occasional star carrying this team on their backs (i.e. Anthony Thompson and Antwann Randle-El) there hasn't been much to celebrate for Hoosier football, outside of the party going on outside of the stadium. That all changed in 2012 as the Hoosiers became a team that others had to take seriously and by the end of the year that's exactly what the Big Ten had to do.
Now the next step is getting this team to a bowl game - something they were just minutes away from doing in 2012. So, let us rewind the clock a bit and take you through the season that gave Hoosiers football fans hope.
Indiana had to go through a quick change at the QB spot in week two thanks to Tre Roberson breaking his leg, yet the Hoosiers topped the Big Ten in passing offense, averaging 311.2 yards per game. Cam Coffman who took over for the injured Roberson ended up the season 3rd in passing yards in the Big Ten, despite not playing in the opener and part of the 2nd game too. Coffman wasn't the most efficient passer, having 15 TD's to 11 INT's and ranking 10 in passer efficiency in the Big Ten.
However, this passing group really exploded thanks to Coffman and Nate Sudfeld at QB along with a trio of really good wide receivers in Shane Wynn, Cody Latimer, and Kofi Hughes. All three ranked in the Big Ten's Top 10 of receptions and yards per game - a feat no other conference team managed to pull off.
Ummm, Kevin Wilson does know you have to play defense to win in the Big Ten right? I get it, you're taking the model of success that helped Oklahoma win Big 12 and National Championships but the Big Ten isn't the Big 12 in any way, shape or form (to quote a certain ex-Big Ten coach). Indiana finished dead last in scoring defense, giving up 35.2 points per game - that's not going to win you enough games to be bowl eligible let alone a conference title in the Big Ten. This team also finished dead last in total defense and rushing defense. The highlight of this group was the secondary who was good enough to rank this team 9th in passing defense. That's not good and you could argue it was ugly, but for me that screams BAD football being played on the defensive side of the ball. Plus, you have to consider how young this group was overall last season except up the middle with seniors Adam Replogle and Larry Black, Jr.
The final three games were a real nose dive for a program that had hopes of winning two and becoming bowl eligible for the first time since the Terry Hoeppner era. However, the first of the final three was against a Wisconsin team looking to clinch a Big Ten championship game appearance and it didn't go so well as UW won 62-14. From there they went on to give up 45 points to Penn State and 56 to Purdue to end the season. That's not exactly how you want to end the season to say the least. The offense that had been so powerful also left town with a high of just 35 points against a terrible Purdue defense.
When you combine an awesome passing attack with an awesomely bad defensive unit you have a recipe for mediocrity to say the least and that's exactly what happened as the Hoosiers finished the season 4-8. However, the sunny side of things was the fact that they were in position to win games against top level Big Ten teams like Michigan State (down year themselves in 2012) and Ohio State (whom they nearly completed a comeback on in the 4th quarter). The future is bright for this team and in year two it became very clear that Kevin Wilson had this team moving upwards and it won't be long before they take the next step to becoming bowl eligible.