- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The 2012 season is inching closer every day, and to get you ready, we're taking a very early look at each Week 1 matchup in the Big Ten. Indiana enters its second season under coach Kevin Wilson with pretty much nowhere to go but up. The Hoosiers have closed the book on a 1-11 campaign that featured no victories against FBS competition. They'll have to wait until Week 2 to rid themselves of that distinction.
Week 1 opponent: Indiana State
Coach: Trent Miles (fifth season, 13-32)
2011 record: 6-5 (4-4 Missouri Valley)
Returning starters: 11 (3 offense; 6 defense; 2 specialists)
About the Sycamores: After winning just one game in the first two years of the Miles era, Indiana State has gone 6-5 in each of the past two seasons and held its own in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Sycamores have some holes to fill on offense, but return a superstar in running back Shakir Bell, who led the FCS with 1,670 rush yards in 2011. Bell, who had 14 touchdowns and averaged 7.3 yards per carry, will be the focal point of an offense that must replace quarterback Ronnie Fouch. Four players competed for the top job during spring practice, and senior Travis Johnson appeared to have the inside track coming out of the session. The defense has fewer question marks and returns linebackers Aaron Archie and Jacolby Washington, who combined for 244 tackles last season. Indiana State also brings back top pass-rusher Ben Obaseki (7.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, 9 quarterback hurries in 2011). The Sycamores ranked in the middle of the Missouri Valley in most statistical categories in 2011, but led in third-down conversion defense (30.5 percent).
Random factoid: Indiana State running backs coach Ronnie Lee is a familiar face for Big Ten fans. He has served as an assistant at Minnesota (2007-10), Michigan (2006) and Wisconsin (2003-05). Lee coached defense at all three Big Ten schools, but moved to the offensive side with Indiana State.
Series with Indiana: Indiana leads 3-0. The Hoosiers won the teams' last meeting 55-7 in 2007.
Totally unscientific percentage chance Indiana wins: 66.1 percent. Sure, the Hoosiers only won once in 2011, but they went 1-0 against the FCS. More important, Indiana will be an improved team in Wilson's second season, while Indiana State loses some key pieces from the 2011 squad. Bell provides an excellent opening test for an Indiana defense that couldn't stop the run last season (243.7 ypg allowed, 118th nationally). If the Hoosiers haven't improved their rush defense, Sept. 1 could be a very long night at Memorial Stadium. Although Indiana State brings back some firepower on defense, Indiana should be able to put up points with Tre Roberson, Stephen Houston and others.
1dBrian Bennett and Austin Ward