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Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Preseason predictions: Indiana

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

1. The Hoosiers rank among the league leaders in sacks but struggle against the run -- After producing an All-Big Ten defensive end in each of the past two seasons, Indiana gets production from both Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton this fall. Opposing quarterbacks will be under duress, at least until their coaches recognize the openings for the run game. Indiana is extremely thin at defensive tackle and despite a solid linebacking corps led by Matt Mayberry, there will be running room up the middle.

2. Darius Willis emerges as the featured running back -- It will be a committee system early on, but Willis eventually will show why he was such a coveted recruit for Indiana. After redshirting in 2008 and battling injuries this spring, Willis is 100 percent entering camp. He'll share carries with veterans Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray in September, but should emerge as a workhorse during Big Ten play. Willis is the bigger back Indiana has waited for him to provide better balance in the offense, and he'll have a better line blocking in front of him.

3. Indiana can't get off of the Big Ten's bottom rung -- I hope I'm wrong because I like Bill Lynch and his staff, but it's hard to see Indiana making a major jump this fall. Kellen Lewis' departure will change the way teams defend the Hoosiers' offense, and the defense simply doesn't have a favorable track record to inspire confidence. A rough nonconference schedule won't help, and Indiana needs a road upset at Michigan or Virginia to generate some momentum. It's certainly possible, but I see the Hoosiers losing eight games and finishing 10th or 11th in the league.