Indiana coach Kevin Wilson promised excitement from his team when he met with reporters in July for the annual Big Ten football media days. Wilson felt comfortable with the offensive pieces that remained in place from last season's Pinstripe Bowl team, and was especially enthusiastic about the possibilities for a revamped defense under a new coordinator.
"You guys make sure you keep the TV turned on, because it's going to be a lot of fun watching the Hoosiers play," Wilson said.
So far, Wilson has been correct. Indiana has been competitive, no matter the opponent, and the defensive progress is a major reason for the improvement. Indiana stands 3-3 at the midway point of the regular season and, despite consecutive losses to Ohio State and Nebraska, should feel it's on the right path in Wilson's sixth season there.
What’s gone right: First-year Indiana defensive coordinator Tom Allen implemented a 4-2-5 scheme that has drastically changed the Hoosiers' performance and kept them in games. The numbers are down (in a positive way) across the board from a year ago. Indiana is allowing 25.3 points per game (down by 11 points) and 372.5 yards (down by 137 yards). The Hoosiers' offense hasn't been as explosive, but a stronger defense gives them a chance. Tegray Scales and Marcus Oliver have combined for 11 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles to lead the charge.
What’s gone wrong: Any time a program loses one of the best quarterbacks in school history, it's going to be difficult to replace that production. Nate Sudfeld is gone, and Richard Lagow has done an admirable job taking the reins as a junior college transfer. But Lagow already has thrown more interceptions (nine) than Sudfeld did all of last season (seven). The offense also is not quite as dynamic, because it doesn't have the same 1-2 running back combination it had last season with Jordan Howard and Devine Redding. Howard is off to the NFL, and Redding is still putting up solid numbers (91.3 rushing yards per game). But no other player is averaging more than 22.7 rushing yards per game.
What to watch in the second half: Indiana has put itself in position to reach a bowl game for a second consecutive season. Games against Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue appear to be winnable, and would give the Hoosiers the six victories necessary to qualify for postseason play. Indiana's losses to Wake Forest and Nebraska hurt because of how close the Hoosiers were in those games. But there's no shame in Indiana losing to those teams, as well as Ohio State -- three teams that are a combined 17-2 this season.