Sunday, August 31, 2008

Indiana 31, Western Kentucky 13.

IU didn't produce the overwhelming win that many might have wanted to see, but IU did show some positive signs in a 31-13 win over Western Kentucky, a team in the second year of its transition to Division I-A. Here's the box score.
The overall numbers look reasonably good. IU outgained WKU 450 to 282. IU averaged an impressive 6.3 yards per play to WKU's 4.1, and punted 4 times to WKU's 7. Each team had one turnover in close succession. Kellen Lewis threw an interception, but WKU gave it back with a fumble just a few plays later. WKU quarterback KJ Black completed 19 of 31 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. IU's two QBs combined for a similar completion percentage but managed only 153 yards in the air, albeit with two touchdowns. The difference was on the ground. IU ran for 297 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per carry. WKU ran for 63 yards and only 2.0 yards per carry. Even setting aside Kellen Lewis's two long TD runs, for a combined 137 yards on two carries, IU still averaged a solid 4.1 yards per carry.
As to individual performances:
The good:
  • Kellen Lewis became IU's career touchdown passing leader with his first half pass to Ray Fisher. Lewis completed 63 percent of his passes and threw one interception.
  • IU used Ben Chappell in certain short yardage and goal line situations. Chappell was 1-3 for 9 yards. Most encouraging was one of the incompletions: when IU was pinned back on its ~2 yard line, Chappell was under pressure and threw the ball away. Yes, I'm still stuck on the Northwestern game from last year.
  • Andrew Means, IU's leading returning receiver, led the team with 6 catches for 63 yards.
  • Terrence Turner, who caught only 1 pass before a season ending injury in 2007, caught 4 passes for 38 yards.
  • Deja vu: 6-5 freshman Demarlo Belcher, from Fort Wayne, caught only one pass for 5 yards, but it was for a touchdown on the patented Hardy fade. If the oversized Belcher can provide just partial replacement of Hardy's production, it will be a huge help to this offense.
  • As promised, freshman tight end Max Dedmond did line up in the slot and caught a pass for five yards.
  • Bryan Payton ran for 57 yards and 6.3 per carry. Demetrius McCray ran for 38 yards on 9 carries.
  • Jammie Kirlew, moved to the right end to replace the suspended Greg Middleton, recorded two sacks.

The bad:

  • Marcus Thigpen ran for only 18 yards on 8 carries. Against Western Kentucky. I like Thigpen. He should be on the field as much as possible. But what is the coaching staff seeing that suggests that Thipgen is capable of being the starting tailback for what we hope will be an average to above average Big Ten team?
  • Our new starting corners didn't record an interception or a broken up pass, although Black's numbers were held a bit below his 2007 averages (based on completion percentage).

The ugly:

  • It's not often that a punter gets the hook, but after opening with a 57 yarder, redshirt freshman Chris Hagerup followed up with a 12 yarder, a 35 yarder, and a fumble. Joe Kleinsmith kicked the last punt of the game, a 50 yarder.

It was an opener, and while the pass defense and non-Kellen rushing games are concerns, IU has time. After next week's game against Murray State, IU has a bye week before playing Ball State and beginning the Big Ten season against Michigan State.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A final look at the defense and special teams: who's back, who's gone?

I always push the previews to the very end. I'm going to consolidate the linebackers and defensive backs and special teams into one post.
Who's back?
The linebacking corps is intact on the outside, but IU is less experienced up the middle.
Will Patterson, junior. Patterson was second on the team in tackles last season and recovered three fumbles.
Geno Johnson, senior. Johnson had 58 tackles and one interception.
Matt Mayberry, junior. Mayberry didn't start last year, but recorded 42 tackles and will replace Adam McClurg (below) at middle linebacker.
Justin Carrington, junior. Carrington managed 37 tackles.
Who's gone?
Adam McClurg. McClurg was third on the team with 99 tackles and also recorded 1.5 sacks. He's the only linebacker who received significant playing time that did not return.
Defensive backs
Newcomers are the big story in the defensive backfield. Of the eight players listed on the two-deep in the backfield, four players, including three of the four cornerbacks, have never played a down for IU. This includes three of the four cornerbacks: starter Chris Atkins and backups Donnell Jones and Richard Council. The fourth, of course, isn't the typical rookie. Sophomore Jerimy Finch, who played for the Florida Gators in 2007 and was one of the most highly-regarded defensive players in the country as a high school senior, is listed as the backup strong safety.
Who's back?
Nick Polk, junior free safety. 74 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles.
Austin Thomas, junior strong safety. Team leading 112 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble.
Christopher Phillips, senior cornerback. Only 12 tackles, but 3 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles.
Joe Kleinsmith, senior free safety. 19 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble.
Who's gone?
Tracy Porter. Porter was a first-day NFL draft pick of the Saints, intercepted two passes in his debut as a freshman and was a key contributor for IU for his entire career. Last season, he recorded six interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He will be missed.
Leslie Majors. Major started alongside Porter, and recorded 62 tackles and one interception. Most naysayers regarding the IU defense will point to the loss of Porter and Majors.
Special Teams
All-American kicker Austin Starr, finally and deservedly a household name in the state and region after kicking the game winner against Purdue, returns for his senior year. Redshirt freshman Chris Hagerup will be the punter.
tracy Porter was a fine punt returner and will be replaced by Ray Fisher. Marcus Thigpen and Demetrius McCray return kickoffs, and hopefully Thigpen can return to his 2006 form.
That's it. Only 12.5 hours until kickoff.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More on Western Kentucky.

First, here's a blog about WKU football written by the beat writer for the Bowling Green Daily News. And here's a link to WKU's depth chart (pdf). Some personnel highlights:
  • KJ Black and Notre Dame transfer David Wolke split time last year, and Black is listed as the starter this year. Last year, it was a fairly even split: Black had 134 attempts, Wolke 124; Black had 1007 yards, Wolke 922; each had an excellent completion percentage (65.7/62.1), but WKU gained most of its yards on the ground. Of the two, QBs, Wolke was the superior runner, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and scoring five rushing touchdowns.
  • At the running back position, the Hilltopper return lots of experience and productivity. Tyrell Hayden and Steven Willis, the starter and backup, were WKU's leading rushers last season. Hayden gained 1134 years and scored 10 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry; Willis gained 438 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per carry and scored 6 touchdowns.
  • WKU returns less experience at fullback, or at least less production: starter Jared Johnson carried the ball 11 times last season, and David Miller caught one pass and had no carries.
  • WKU certainly isn't a pass-first team, but is #2-#4 receiving leaders from last year--Jake Goebler, Quinterrence Cooper, and Jessie Quinn, return at WR.
  • WKU runs a 3-4 defense, and all three of its starting linemen (Dan Cline, Jon Belcher, Robert Clark)had significant playing time last year (although WKU's two sack leaders are gone).
  • WKU returns three linebackers who received substantial playing time last year (Blake Boyd, Alonzo Higgins, and Ben Sowders) but Darvis McBride played little.
  • Senior cornerback Marcus Minor, a product of Arlington High School in Indianapolis, was second in tackles on last year's team. His corner counterpart is a redshirt freshman (Trent Calhoun).
  • Every Hilltopper who intercepted more than one past last year is gone.

The most recent odds list IU as about a 20 point favorite. Still, the breadth of WKU's rushing attack, in light of IU's 2005 near-miss against Nicholls State and the 2006 loss to Southern Illinois, concerns me a bit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Starters and suspensions.

Bill Lynch made Kellen Lewis compete for his job, but unsurprisingly, Lewis won it back and will start against Western Kentucky.
The bad news is that four Hoosiers, including all-American DE Greg Middleton, have been suspended for the first game. The other three suspended players are Troy Wagner, Brandon Mosley, and Kyle Kozak, none of whom appear on the two-deep.

Defensive line: who's back, who's gone.

The defensive line was the most pleasant surprise of the 2007 season. IU rarely reached the opposing quarterback in 2006, but in 2007, IU was among the nation's sack leaders for much of the season, and then-sophomore defensive end Greg Middleton led the nation with 16 sacks. IU will be relying upon new starters and both cornerback positions and at middle linebacker, so this experienced line could be an important asset to the team.
Who's back?
Nearly everyone. All four starters received significant playing time last year, and freshman Fred Jones is the only newcomer on the two-deep.
Greg Middleton, junior DE. Middleton, as noted above, emerged as one of the most effective defensive ends in the country, and won numerous all-Big Ten and all-American designations, both in the 2007 postseason and the 2008 preseason.
Jammie Kirlew, junior DE. On the left side of the line, Kirlew had 57 tackles and was third on the team with 4.5 sacks.
Deonte Mack, sophomore DT. Mack, the least experienced of the starters, had 18 tackles.
Greg Brown, senior DT. Brown tied Middleton with 50 tackles and had 1.5 sacks.
Ryan Marando, senior DE. Marando, although a reserve in 2008, was second on the team with 5 sacks in 2007.
Kevin Burrus, junior DT. One of identical twins, Kevin had 11 tackles.
Keith Burrus, junior DT. The second of the twins, Keith had only 9 tackles, but three were tackles for loss, including a sack.
Who's gone?
Brian Faires, who played in all 13 games and managed 13 tackles and two sacks, is the only departing lineman who received significant playing time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An initial look at Western Kentucky.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
2007 record
: 7-5.
2007 Sagarin: 118
Conference: none (joining Sun Belt in 2009).
Coach: David Elson (6th season, 37-22).
Series: First meeting.
Western Kentucky is in the second season of its gradual transition to Division I-A.* The Hilltoppers will join the Sun Belt Conference in 2009 but are an independent this year. WKU was a I-AA power in its last few years at that level; WKU made five straight playoff appearances from 2000 through 2004 and won the I-AA national championship in 2002 under the direction of Jack Harbaugh. As noted above, current coach David Elson has a solid record in his first five seasons at WKU. Elson is an Indianapolis native and graduated from Butler University and Cathedral High School. As this article from the Criterion, the newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, notes, IU coach Bill Lynch and Elson both hail from Christ the King parish/school on the north side of Indianapolis, and although Lynch is quite a bit older than Elson, they know quite a few people in common.
I haven't looked much as WKU's personnel yet (check back later in the week), but the Hilltoppers have gone 0-13 against members of BCS conferences (WKU is 12-19 against Louisville and 2-0 against Miami, but all wins came long before major conference affiliation). The only reasonably competitive game that the Hilltoppers have mounted against such an opponent was a 27-13 loss to Kansas State in 2004.
Of course, WKU is known best for basketball, but in general the school's mascot has been a regular on ESPN SportsCenter commercials, most famously in this classic:
*No, I will not use the silly FBS/FCS labels. I'm going to keep saying I-A and I-AA until the NCAA changes them back.

A minor instance of actual reporting.

In the last couple of days, there have been some rather persistent rumors online about whether DirecTV's relationship with the Big Ten Network was coming to an end on October 15. The story seems so obviously silly, given DTV's early involvement with the BTN, that it barely seemed worth the trouble, but more than one person reporting receiving such news from a DirecTV customer service representative. I decided to drop a line to Robert Mercer, director of public relations for DirecTV, to ask him whether there was any truth to the rumor that DirecTV is dropping the BTN. Mr. Mercer's prompt response, in full:

"No truth at all. Thanks."
I hesitated to send the e-mail, not wanting to give additional circulation to a rumor that defied belief in the first place. If you haven't heard the rumor, then I apologize for spreading it. But it seems to be false, and Mr. Mercer's response seems to be a flat denial with little wiggle room.
Update: After initially posting this, I received an e-mail that was even more unequivocal, if that's possible, from Will Stegemann of DirectTV:
Thank you for writing us about the Big Ten Network. Mr. Mercer sent me your message and asked me to contact you. I assure you that DIRECTV is not dropping The Big Ten Network. We've moved it to a new location, channel 610, but just like last year we will be carrying the channel as well as alternate feeds to show as many Big Ten Conference games as possible. DIRECTV customers can check the neighboring channels on game days to find the games they are looking for. Thanks again for writing and best of luck to your Hoosiers on Saturday.
That seems to settle it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Game week!

Five days from today, almost to the hour, the Hoosiers begin the 2008 season with a home game against new-to-I-A Western Kentucky. Plenty of questions remain about the season and the program. Will Kellen Lewis, Ben Chappell, or both be the quarterback? How will IU's offense respond to the departure of James Hardy? Will the addition of Jerimy Finch and the return of most of the front seven take some pressure off of IU's newbie cornerbacks? Is the real Bill Lynch the guy from the middle years of his career at BSU, or the guy from the rest of his career? What is certain is that the long bowl drought is over. We won't have to read about it in the newspaper or hear color commentators discuss it during every game.
In light of the rapidly approaching season, a few executive decisions:
  • I'll continue the position-by-position previews as the week transpires, in addition to previewing the WKU game specifically.
  • I'm not going to be able to continue the 2007 retrospectives in any detail. The rest of this post will contain links and brief discussion of the last seven games of the 2007 season.

The season that was, abbreviated version:

  • Game 7: Michigan State 52, Indiana 27. Here's the box, here's my unhappy recap. The euphoria of the Bucket game and the thrill of the first bowl bid in 14 years allowed me forget just how frustrating was the last half of the 2007 season. In 2006, IU obliterated MSU in Bloomington, scoring 46 unanswered points on the way to a not-as-close-as-the-score 46-21 win. In 2007, MSU got its revenge, dominating all but the scoreboard in the first half and finally expanding its lead in the second half. This was a splash of cold water after a 5-1 start.
  • Game 8: Penn State 36, Indiana 31. The box; the recap. IU played Penn State for the first time since the 2004 gut-puch, a game in which PSU stopped IU on four consecutive plays from the one yard line to preserve a victory. Fumbles and mental errors by two of IU's best players, Kellen Lewis (three fumbles) and Tracy Porter (a fumbled punt return, and allowing a punt to bounce to the 5 instead of catching it at the 30 on IU's last possession) sealed IU's fate.
  • Game 9: Wisconsin 33, Indiana 3. The box; the recap. Late October was not good to the Hoosiers. The final score really says it all. This one could have been as ugly as the MSU game if PJ Hill hadn't been injured during the game.
  • Game 10: Indiana 38, Ball State 20. The box; the recap. After a rough few weeks, IU clinched a non-losing season and provisional bowl eligibility by beating a solid Ball State team by 18 despite too many turnovers. IU plays Ball State in game 3 of 2008, so we'll revisit this one soon.
  • Game 11: Northwestern 31, Indiana 28. The box; the recap. Had IU not held on against Purdue, this game, and the handling of Ben Chappell during his brief injury substitution for Lewis, might have cost Bill Lynch a chance at the job. IU lost its fourth consecutive game to Northwestern, and all four games have been decided in overtime or by less than a touchdown.
  • Game 12: Indiana 27, Purdue 24. The box, the recap. IU kept the Bucket in Bloomington for the first time in six years despite allowing Purdue to come back from a 24-3 deficit. While a blowout would have been nice, after a gut-wrenching collapse, IU managed (barely) to move the ball into Austin Starr's range, and the 49-yard game-winning field goal become one of the most memorable moments of the 2007 season nationally and one of the most treasured moments in IU's football history.
  • Insight Bowl: Oklahoma State 49, Indiana 33. The box; the recap. This game followed the same script as the MSU game: IU was manhandled from start to finish by a talented team with a mediocre record, despite the deceptively close score. This game is the reason that I ranked Oklahoma State in my preseason blogpoll ballot: IU was no worldbeater last year, but this OSU team has lots of talent, particularly at the offensive skill positions. While the loss was disappointing, IU played in its first bowl game since 1993 and its first warm weather bowl game since 1991. It was progress, and by all accounts a great experience for players and IU fans.

UPDATE: ESPN's Adam Rittenberg notes that IU's depth chart is out and has some interesting observations on tight end, corner, and WR. Here is IU's week 1 depth chart, within the weekly release (pdf warning).

Friday, August 22, 2008

The offensive line: whos' gone, who's back?

The Hoosier Scoop is writing about the same thing today.
Who's back?
Unlike most positions, the O-line doesn't generate much by way of statistics, other than games and snaps played. Nevertheless, after watching an undersized line struggle in 2005, Terry Hoeppner added seven offensive linemen in the recruiting class of 2006, a group that he nicknamed the "seven blocks of limestone." All remain on the team. The group included Pete Saxon (junior guard); Cody Faulkner (guard); Mike Stark (tackle); Roger Saffold (tackle); Alex Perry (center), the five projected starters, per the Hoosier Scoop. Saxon and Saffold played as true freshmen and are listed as juniors; the others redshirted and are listed as sophomores. Tyler Smith (guard) is expected to contribute, and James Brewer, who at 6-8 is the tallest player on the roster, has been injury-plagued in his first two seasons but could be an asset. As the Hoosier Scoop notes, the o-line in 2005, Terry Hoeppner's first season, averaged 6-2. This year, 6-6. The wight remains about the same, but the size of the average IU lineman has increased.
Who's gone?
Charlie Emerson, tackle.
John Sandberg, center/guard.
Ben Wyss, center.
All three started most or all of IU's games last season.

The receivers: who's gone, who's back?

Last week, I discussed the offensive backfield. This week: the receivers. Unlike the offensive backfield, it seems likely that IU will use some newcomers as receivers. Freshman Tandon Doss has been getting work with the first team, per the Hoosier Scoop, and has returned from a brief absence required by some issue with the NCAA Clearinghouse. Also, freshman tight end Max Dedmond is drawing premature comparisons to Dallas Clark of the Colts. Apparently IU will use Dedmond much like the Colts use Clark, as a TE/WR hybrid. If he plays like Clark did in this game, I'll be happy. Finally, Mitchell Evans, a 6-3 sophomore who intercepted two passes as a safety last year, is now a WR seeing work with the first team.
Wide receiver
Who's back:
Andrew Means, junior. Means was second on the team in yards, with 559, and average over 11 yards per catch, although he did not catch a touchdown. Means played rookie ball for the Cincinnati Reds over the summer, so it seems possible that this season will be his last at IU.
Ray Fisher, junior. Fisher is only 5-9, but caught 52 passes for 482 years and was second on the team with four touchdown receptions.
Brandon Walker-Roby, senior. Walker-Roby, the brother of former IU star and current Colt Courtney Roby, had a respectable freshman year, with 10 receptions, 78 yards, and two touchdowns, but has caught only nine passes in the last two seasons. He will have a final opportunity to try to live up to his brother's reputation, and has also been seeing time with the first unit.
Who's gone:
James Hardy. But you knew that. It's hard to discuss Hardy without resorting to cliche, but they're all true. Hardy changed the game and forced defenses to account for him on every play. He had a height advantage over every defender he faced. It's unlikely that IU will replace his production, and other aspects of the offense--the tight ends, the running backs, Kellen Lewis--will have to pick up the slack.
James Bailey. For reasons that were never entirely clear to me, Bailey transferred before his senior season. I can't remember where he ended up, and Google isn't helping right now. Bailey was fourth on the team with 268 yards and caught 2 touchdowns. He would have helped this year.
Tight end
Who's back:
Troy Wagner. Two receptions, five yards. Obviously, IU hasn't used tight ends as receivers all that much recently, although Dedmond may change that.
Who's gone:
Nick Sexton. Sexton caught 3 passes for 31 yards, no touchdowns.

The season that was, game 6: Indiana 40, Minnesota 20.

After IU lost to Illinois, it appeared that IU would be 3-2 after the trip to Iowa. IU's surprising win at Kinnick changed the profile of IU's season, and the Hoosiers improved to 5-1 with a win over a historically awful Minnesota team. Here's the box, here's the recap.
The Hoosiers didn't play overly well against Minnesota's defense, one of the worst in Division I-A, but still managed nearly 500 yards in offense and punted only twice. IU and Minnesota were tied at 14 after the first quarter, but IU led 27-14 at halftime and the Gophers never challenged again. Minnesota's Adam Weber was productive, but threw two interceptions.
Bryan Payton, filling in for injured Marcus Thipgen, was outstanding. He gained 90 yards on 13 carries and scored three touchdowns. Lewis was himself. Ray Fisher led the way for the receivers with 9 catches and 106 yards. Minnesota should be vastly improved, so I don't know that this game holds much insight for what will be IU's final trip to the Metrodome.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Finch granted NCAA waiver.

The Hoosier Scoop reports something quite foreign to IU fans recently: good news from the NCAA. Safety Jerimy Finch has been granted a waiver, based on extenuating family circumstances, from the requirement that he sit out a season after his transfer from Florida to IU. For those who aren't familiar, Finch is a former star at Warren Central who was the nation's top safety prospect as a high school senior. Initially, he committed to Michigan, but sometime in fall 2006 switched his commitment to IU. On the eve of signing day, Florida suddenly has a scholarship available, and Finch signed with the Gators. He played in Florida's first three games in 2007, but after making his first career interception against arch-rival Tennessee, he broke his leg in the same game and missed the rest of the season. As I've mentioned a million times, I'm not a recruiting fanatic, but off the top of my head I would guess that Finch is the most highly rated prospect to enroll at IU since Bo Barzilauskas in the early 1990s. Hopefully, this arrangement will be better.
I don't know much about the circumstances affecting Finch's family, and I held out no hope that he would play before 2009. This is a nice gift on the eve of the season, and should help IU with the defensive backfield, the only unit of IU's defense that lost many players because of graduation.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Crean's contract and other basketball notes.

I'll get back to football as soon as possible, but there has been some basketball news recently. First, Tom Crean now has signed his 10-year contract. Here's the .pdf from the Indianapolis Star. It might be fun to do a line-by-line comparison with Sampson's contract, but here are a few highlights:
  • Lots of NCAA compliance language throughout.
  • The language on page 4, in paragraph 2.02, is interesting. It allows discipline, up to and including termination, if Crean is involved in any act or omission that "may give rise" to a finding that he or his staff violated any NCAA rules. Nice hindsight language that would have saved IU some money had it been in Sampson's contract.
  • IU agreed to pay up to $650,000 of his liquidated damages (i.e. buyout) owed to Marquette. Maybe this had been reported previously, but I don't remember it.
  • Crean's base salary is $600,000 for the entire term of the contract, and his guaranteed compensation ranges from $1.4 million in year 1 to $2.1 million in year 10.
  • The employment termination provisions begin on page 11. Obviously, I hope that these never see the light of day again, but considering what we have gone through recently, I can't help but compare this contract to Sampson's contract. In the case of Crean's resignation, he would owe $3 million in years 1-3, $2 million in years 4-5, and $1 million in years 6-10. In the "for cause" section, the "may give rise" language mentioned above appears again. I always thought IU was in a better position with Sampson than Ohio State was with O'Brien, but this language is much better: it leaves little doubt that IU could fire Crean based on a mere notice of violation by the NCAA.
  • The procedures for termination for cause, which begin on page 14, include provisions for suspension with or without pay. The cliche about fighting the last war comes to mind. Now that we have a coach with a reputation for integrity, we have the sort of contractual provisions that would have been helpful in dealing with the Sampson situation.
  • If Michael McRobbie resigns or is terminated as IU's president, Crean has the right to renegotiate the appeal process of the "termination for just cause" provisions. Interesting.
  • If IU wants to fire Crean without cause (i.e., if he does a bad job), IU will owe the lesser of $3 million or the base salary for the years remaining. That amounts to $3 million if he's fired in the first five years, $2.4 million if fired after year 6, and so on.

Lots of interesting stuff, but again, I hope I never have to look at this contract again.

In other news, this is way late, but IU hired Roshown McLeod to fill its last assistant coaching position. McLeod graduated from Duke, but played his first two years of college basketball at St. John's. Perhaps most significantly, McLeod is a product of Bob Hurley's Jersey City St. Anthony's program. This suggests that recruiting metro New York will be a high priority for Crean.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Preseason Blogpoll ballot.

For the second year, I am participating in the Blogpoll, which, as the name suggests, is a top 25 poll in which the voters are college football bloggers. Brian at mgoblog started the project several years ago and you will find the weekly poll at that site. The current deadline for the preseason poll is Wednesday morning. Here's what I have entered, and feel free to suggest or ridicule. Based on comments or my own thoughts, I may amend before the deadline.
1 Georgia 25
2 Ohio State 24
3 Southern Cal 23
4 LSU 22
5 Florida 21
6 Texas 20
7 Oklahoma 19
8 Clemson 18
9 Auburn 17
10 Arizona State 16
11 Texas Tech 15
12 Missouri 14
13 Virginia Tech 13
14 Wisconsin 12
15 Brigham Young 11
16 South Florida 10
17 Tennessee 9
18 Kansas 8
19 Oregon 7
20 Illinois 6
21 Wake Forest 5
22 Alabama 4
23 Oklahoma State 3
24 Michigan 2
25 Penn State 1

Dropped Out:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The season that was, game 5: Indiana 38, Iowa 20.

IU managed to erase the disappointment of the Illinois loss by beating Iowa 38-20 on the road. Here's the short recap (I was out of town) and here's the box score. IU jumped out to a 21 point lead. IU's third touchdown of the game, memorably, was a 71 yard fumble return by Kellen Lewis that technically was credited as 71 yards of passing to himself (yeah, he got a penalty, and deservedly so, but it's a great picture--see above). Lewis finished 19-26 with 322 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Iowa scored a touchdown on the last play of the first half and then pulled to within 21-13 in the middle of the third quarter, but Josiah Sears scored with a minute left in the third quarter to make it 28-13, and Iowa never really threatened again. As I noted in my wrapup last year, IU gave up a ton of yards to a fairly weak Iowa offense, and couldn't do a thing on the ground, but still, this was only IU's second Big Ten road win since 2001. Even though Iowa was a mediocre team that squandered its bowl eligibility with a home game to Western Michigan in November, this win, in front of the usual 70,000 Hawkeye fans, was a big deal. IU hasn't had a three game winning streak against a Big Ten opponent since beating Iowa in 1998-2000, but IU will have that chance in October.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The offensive backfield: what's gone, what's back?

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts reviewing the 2008 Hoosiers unit-by-unit, considering who returns and what sort of production IU lost to graduation or other attrition.
Until a few weeks ago, because Kellen Lewis was suspended indefinitely, it wasn't clear what sort of experience IU would return. The good news is that setting aside fakes and other trick plays, IU returns all of its passing production from last year. The bad news? Kellen Lewis, second team all-Big Ten last year, missed all of spring practice and technically is competing with last year's backup, Ben Chappell, for the starting job.
Who's back?
Kellen Lewis, redshirt junior: Lewis improved during his first full season as the starter. He completed 60 percent of his passes (up from 54 percent as a freshman) and threw 28 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He ran for 736 yards and 9 touchdowns and averaged five yards per carry. While Lewis is back, he lost his primary touchdown target, James Hardy, who caught 17 of Lewis's 17 touchdowns. The biggest concern about Lewis's performance is fumbles. Fumble stats are surprisingly difficult to come by, but Lewis fumbled a lot, particularly in the second half of the season.
Ben Chappell, redshirt sophomore: Chappell played in three games and threw only two passes. One was a 14 yard completion. The other was the most infamous play, or at least most questioned play call, of the season. IU led 14-3 at Northwestern, and Kellen Lewis was shaken up on a second down play. Facing 3rd down and 6, Chappell came in for his first meaningful snap as a college player. Instead of a conservative play call, Chappell tried to find James Hardy, but instead threw an interception that NU returned for a touchdown. Certainly, the bulk of the blame for that play belongs to Bill Lynch and his staff, but considering Chappell's resume compared to Lewis's two years of experience, it's hard to imagine that this really is an open competition for the starting slot.
Who's gone?
No one.
Running back
While the fullback position is a question mark, IU returns every running back who took a snap last year. None of the returnees were dominant last year, so this position could be a bit unpredictable.
Who's back?
Marcus Thigpen, redshirt senior: All reports are that Thigpen has bulked up during the offseason. Good. Although he nominally has been the starting running back for more than a season, Thigpen has never emerged as a reliable, every down, up the middle back (cliche alert). Last year Thigpen averaged a so-so 4.1 yards per carry and ran for 568 yards and no touchdowns (he did manage 181 receiving yards and three touchdowns). In the absence of James Hardy, it will be important for IU to find other means of moving the ball, and a more effective traditional running game would be a good start. While he wasn't as effective in 2007, in 2006 Thigpen was one of the finest kick returners in the country. Hopefully, Marcus will rediscover that form.
Bryan Payton, redshirt junior: Payton, who writes a blog and spent the summer writing for the Indiana Daily Student, was IU's third leading rusher, behind Lewis and Thipgen. Payton ran for 368 yards and average 4.2 yards per carry and scored 4 touchdowns.
Demetrius McCray, redshirt junior: McCray's sophomore season was injury-plagued. He played in only three games, but was very effective when he did play: 138 yards on 22 carries. As a freshman, McCray ran for 320 yards and two touchdowns, but only 3.6 yards per carry.
Trea Burgess, redshirt sophomore: Burgess played little, rushing for 78 yards and a touchdown on 4.3 per carry.
Who's gone?
No one.
Who's back?
No one.
Who's gone?
Josiah Sears. Sears ran for only 144 yards and 3.2 per carry, but he scored 4 touchdowns on the ground and caught another four touchdown passes. He certainly had a knack for finding the endzone in red zone situations and will be missed more than his overall stats would suggest.
I'll discuss newcomers as the season approaches.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Around Indiana.

I'll be getting into a closer look at IU's returning and incoming players as the season approaches. Nineteen days from now, IU's opener will be in the books. For now:
  • While the season approaches for the football team, basketball-only Inside the Hall is in the middle of the offseason. Fortunately, ITH is passing the time with a countdown of the top ten all-time basketball Hoosiers, as voted on in comment threads and by ITH contributors. So far, ITH has listed two from the 1970s, one from the 1990s, and one from the old days who should be ranked much higher than he is.
  • Also from ITH, the Maui Invitational bracket has been released. IU plays Notre Dame in the first round. The two schools last met in December 2004; Notre Dame won at Assembly Hall for only the second time, 55-45. The four years between games is the longest break in the series since 1932-1947. The Maui game will be only the third time the two schools have played outside the state of Indiana. ND won both such prior matchups, which were NCAA Tournament games in 1954 (Iowa City) and 1958 (Lexington).
  • I drove through Bloomington a couple of weeks ago, and I really regret not taking any pictures. Ken Bikoff of Inside Indiana has done a really excellent job of documenting the construction up close, but it's hard to believe just how good the construction looks from a distance, particularly from the north, at the intersection of Dunn and the 45/46 Bypass. It will present a nice image to fans and recruits approaching campus from the north.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The season that was, game 4: Illinois 27, Indiana 14.

After winning three non-conference games with relative ease, IU opened the Big Ten season with a home loss on a sweltering day to eventual Big Ten runner-up and Rose Bowl participant Illinois. Most expected the Illini, based on some improbably impressive recruiting by Ron Zook, to improve in 2007, but by any standard the Illini were ahead of schedule. Here's the box score, and here is my wrapup. Also if you scroll down the Illinois category past the basketball stuff, you will see my quarter-by-quarter liveblogs, including prescient gems such as:
Too bad this isn't Oklahoma circa 1980. Williams cannot pass. They may beat us today, but Illinois isn't going to beat anyone at the top of the conference with this QB.
Ahem. As I noted in the recap, Juice Williams was mostly horrible when he tried to throw the ball, although he did have a couple of nice throws on the key drive of the game: after IU pulled to within 13-7 with a couple of minutes remaining in the first have, Illinois drove down the field and was up 20-7 at halftime. In general, the thankfully departed Rashard Mendenhall brutalized the IU defense. Mendenhall gained 214 yards on 27 carries and scored a touchdown. IU's box scores list gross postive yards and net yards, but those numbers were the same in Mendenhall's line: in other words, he carried the ball 27 times and wasn't stopped behind the line of scrimmage even once.
Overall, it was a deflating game. At the time, no one knew how good Illinois would be. The previous season, IU had ended a 17-year, 10-game losing streak in Champaign, and before the season, most IU fans figured a win in this game would be crucial to IU's bowl hopes (not too many foresaw the win at Iowa to come) and might lead to a modest three game winning streak in what the Big Ten office regards as a rivalry worthy of protection. It wasn't to be, and now IU heads to Champaign in 2008 for a BTN prime time game.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Vintage video of IU-Michigan.

Not much time to post now or for the next few days, but to tide you over, here's some video that purports to be from an IU-Michigan game from 1957. For the record, IU lost 27-13, in the second to last game of a 1-8 season. IU beat Villanova, and sadly, the 14 point loss in Ann Arbor was IU's most competitive loss. Michigan was 5-3-1 and in the midst of a two decade slump (by Michigan standards) between the tenures of Fritz Crisler and Bo Schembechler. As the video shows, there were lots of empty seats in AA that day.
That loss did come in the midst of what has been the only competitive stretch in the IU-Michigan series. From 1954 through 1967, IU went 4-4 against Michigan even though only one of the eight games was in Bloomington. From 1968 to present, IU is 1-30 against U-M.