- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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For the last few years, whenever anyone spoke of Indiana sports, it was assumed they meant basketball. However, the Hoosiers football team burst onto the scene early this season with an exciting offense. However, it hasn’t always been pretty and with a 2-2 record in non-conference play it now goes into its bye week before it begins the Big Ten football season. Here’s IU’s to-do list for the week:
1. Pull its defense together. The fact the Hoosiers were averaging more than 50 points per game going into its match up with Missouri helped to mask the fact its huge deficiencies on the defensive side. But the Tigers exposed those, putting up 623 yards of offense and 45 points. The Hoosiers have this bye week to try and pull it together as their first conference test will be Penn State, which is averaging 264 passing yards and 197 rushing yards per game. Freshman QB Christian Hackenberg has been impressive in reading defenses and with the Nittany Lions on a bye week this week as well, he’ll have extra time to prepare in the film room for the IU defense.
2. Figure out the QB situation. The Hoosiers are going into their Big Ten season without a true defined starting quarterback, which really doesn’t benefit anyone (unless you’re Northwestern, and you have two). A week ago it seemed as though sophomore Nate Sudfeld would be the likely starter all season. But after he threw three picks and completed just 21 of 39 passes against Missouri, coach Kevin Wilson pulled him in the third quarter and put in sophomore Tre Roberson, who tallied one passing and one rushing touchdown and completed 8 of 14 passes for 148 yards. Wilson needs to figure out what happened with Sudfeld and whether it might be better for his team down the stretch to have more of the dual-threat skill set of Roberson.
3. Restore its confidence. It sounds obvious, but a week off before the conference season to regain some ego lost in the loss to Missouri will be crucial for this team. Now, the Hoosiers need to win at least four games in conference play to be bowl eligible, and that might be too tall of an order for this group (especially if it can’t fix Nos. 1 and 2). The Hoosiers have Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue at home, which could all be favorable situations for wins but that’d still put them one short. The conference opener against Penn State is not quite as welcoming, but is a possibility for a win. But if they drop the game to the Nittany Lions then they must pick up a win on the road, which isn’t too friendly (Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State). That six-point loss to Navy earlier this month might come back to haunt the Hoosiiers. If Wilson can’t bring back some of that early season confidence, it could be the difference-maker in a bowl-bound or almost-but-not-quite season.
1dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman
1dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy