To mark the start of college football, Hoosier State of Mind’s Kyle Grand and Will Logan answered questions not only concerning Indiana football, but the sport in general. Here are their predictions for how the Hoosiers’ season will go and what will happen in college football this year.
Question: Which Hoosier is under the most pressure?
Grand: As much I think quarterback Nate Sudfeld is under major pressure, I’m going to say wide receiver Shane Wynn. Wynn is the only returning receiver with any real experience. The entire receiving corps is looking to him as the example. IU’s offense should be explosive again, but the Hoosiers need Wynn to make plays. If he is having trouble getting open while facing the opposition’s best corner back, then he must make an impact in the running and return games. For the first time, Wynn is in the spotlight, and if he has another insane year, Indiana’s offense could reach a new level.
Logan: Senior inside linebacker David Cooper. We all know that overall defensive performance is the biggest question mark facing the Hoosiers, but the thing new defensive coordinate Brian Knorr brought up on Monday was his concern regarding on-field leadership. Anyone who has played football at any level knows that the defense needs its own “quarterback” barking out orders, making sure teammates are aligned correctly and rallying the troops when things get sticky. If you follow Cooper on social media, you’ve seen his “put the team on my back” mentality this off season.
More to being a team leader/captain then just on the field ….took my D-Line to eat up at buffet including DG pic.twitter.com/ASoo0hDR9L
— David Cooper (@IU_Coop42) July 6, 2014
Additionally he was one of three players Wilson brought with him to B1G media day, and his status as a senior combined, with his middle linebacker position, make him the obvious top candidate to step up as an on-the-field leader. With his resume, the pressure is on Cooper to lead the defensive turnaround this year.
Q: How hot is head coach Kevin Wilson’s seat?
Grand: While IU hasn’t won much with Wilson at the helm, I’ll still say his seat is lukewarm. Since he took over, the program has totally changed. There is hope. There are playmakers. Indiana football is at least exciting to watch. But, eventually wins must come. If the Hoosiers don’t show any improvement this year, then I think Wilson will truly be under pressure next season.
Logan: That’s it. Now I’m really mad. There’s a good chance Wilson will be gone in the next couple of years, but it won’t be because he’s been fired. It will be because he’s been offered a job at school willing to pay him more than his current bottom of the B1G salary. People act like they don’t know that Indiana is statistically THE worst college football team of all time…of ALL TIME! What Wilson is doing for Indiana football can’t be measured by wins and losses (not yet).
He’s not focused on having a winning season; he’s focused on building a winning program. He’s increased player accountability, player dedication to the sport and has casually put together the two best recruiting classes for Indiana in the modern online rankings era in back-to-back years. Wilson is college football’s Theo Epstein. People who follow the sport see and respect what Wilson is building. Programs that need a full turnaround recognize his value, and they will offer to pay him accordingly.
Q: IU makes it to a bowl game if…
Grand: IU will make a bowl game if its defense goes from atrocious to bad. Seriously, that’s all that has to happen. The offense is going to put up plenty of points, so the D just has to be marginally better in order for the Hoosiers to scoop up a few more wins. Lucky for new defensive coordinator Brian Knoor, the only place to go is up, as last year’s defense was the worst in the history of the Big Ten. And, I think the defense will be improved. Defensive recruits who were brought in over the last two seasons are better and more experienced, so while the Hoosiers won’t be anything like Michigan State, the defense should be better.
Logan: They quit being losers. Winners find a way to win, and losers find a way to lose. How many times have we seen the Hoosiers find a way to blow games? I still have nightmares about last year’s Minnesota game. These aren’t flukes. It’s not bad luck, and it’s definitely not some kind of curse. It’s 100% the result of an “oh my goodness we might win I hope we don’t blow it” mindset rather than a “burn the boats, we’re winning this *#@!&*$ football game” approach. For Indiana to truly turn the corner, they need to convince themselves that they deserve to win football games. In my eyes, this is really the last step in Wilson turning the program around, and as anyone that has coached knows, changing the mindset of a group of players is a much taller task than coming up with an X’s and O’s game plan.
Q: Indiana’s regular season record will be…
Grand: 7-5. The wins I have are Indiana State, Bowling Green, Maryland, North Texas, Penn State, Rutgers and Purdue. Once I see a bowl matchup, then we can talk about whether or not IU gets win No. 8.
Logan: 8-4. I lie awake at night stressing over our preseason slate, which is ranked in the Top 25 in terms of Strength of Schedule. Bowling Green is the favorite to win the MAC this year. North Texas is the favorite to win their division in Conference USA. Missouri won their division in the SEC last year. If Indiana drops 2 out of those 3 games (and most unbiased football fans wouldn’t think twice about taking that bet), the season could be a disaster. However, I think this is the year Indiana turns the edge. The Hoosiers beat Indiana State. Then out of the next six games (Bowling Green, Missouri, Maryland, North Texas, Iowa, Michigan State), the Hoosiers will take four. They then will take three of their next five (Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, Ohio State, Purdue). It’s going to be rough year for the state of Michigan as the Hoosiers will beat both the Spartans in Bloomington and the Wolverines in Ann Arbor after years of almost getting the job done there.
Q: Big Ten Champion?
Grand: Michigan State. With Braxton Miller out for Ohio State, I think MSU becomes the best team in the conference. Really, the only tough road game for the Spartans is at the end of the season when they travel to Penn State. They host Michigan and Ohio State. It’s a pretty easy road for MSU, and I think they capitalize.
Logan: Iowa will have a cake walk through the Cupcake Division with their two toughest games against Wisconsin and Nebraska both being played at Kinnick where the Hawkeyes rarely lose. They’ll be embarrassed by Ohio State in the B1G championship game however. Braxton Miller’s injury is not optimal, but this isn’t Jason Street being replaced by Matty Saracen. JT Barrett, the 7th ranked QB in the 2013 recruiting class, will be fine with Urban Meyer’s guidance and would likely start anyway at most B1G schools. Michigan State does have an incredibly easy schedule, but people are underestimating how much the Spartans will feel the losses of many of the core players from last year’s dominating defense.
Q: Which four teams make the first-ever college football playoffs?
Grand: Florida State, Oregon, Baylor and Auburn
Logan: Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Ohio State
Q: Who Wins the Heisman?
Grand: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty
Logan: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota
Q: Your 2014-15 national champion is…
Grand: Oregon. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Ducks keep Florida State from repeating.
Logan: Alabama. The boys from Tuscaloosa lost a rivalry game on one of the craziest plays of all-time, and then had a major mental letdown against Oklahoma after they missed the National Championship. This team is still loaded with a disgusting amount of talent after scoring the number one recruiting class in the nation four years running according to Rivals, and Nick Saban is still Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide’s era of dominance hasn’t ended, and last year’s end-of-season fluke will only serve as extra motivation. Roll Damn Tide.