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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
INDIANA (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten)
After a breakthrough bowl appearance, Indiana appeared to find the formula to keep momentum on its side. The Hoosiers scheduled eight home games, including four nonleague contests against non-BCS foes. Dynamic quarterback Kellen Lewis returned from suspension and reclaimed his starting job. National sacks leader Greg Middleton would lead an experienced defense. But the approach has backfired, and Indiana sits in a familiar spot at the bottom of the Big Ten standings. Two cupcake opponents didn't adequately prepare Indiana for a surging Ball State team and the Big Ten schedule, and the Hoosiers have dropped four straight. Penalties and turnovers have plagued the offense, and the heat is rising on head coach Bill Lynch.
Offensive MVP -- Slim pickings here, but senior running back Marcus Thigpen has contributed in several areas. He has showcased his big-play ability with four touchdowns of longer than 60 yards (two rushing, two receiving), and he remains a threat on kickoff returns (20.6 yards per return). Thigpen also has two 100-yard rushing performances, doubling his total from the previous three seasons. He joins Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Purdue's Kory Sheets as the only players to rank in the league's top 10 in all-purpose yards, scoring and kickoff returns.
Defensive MVP -- Middleton's production has dropped this fall, likely because of increased attention, but junior Jammie Kirlew is filling the pass-rushing void at the other defensive end spot. Kirlew is tied for ninth nationally in sacks (1 per game) and tied for fourth in tackles for loss (1.83 per game). He has two multisack performances and 8.5 tackles for loss in three league games. Safety Nick Polk also deserves a mention after factoring in four of the team's eight takeaways this season.
What's next -- Indiana failed to capitalize on having five of its first six games at home and now needs to steal a road win, most likely against Illinois or Purdue, to have a chance at getting bowl eligible. Ball security and better overall discipline will be focal points going forward, and Indiana needs to find its identity on offense after using quarterbacks Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell on the field together. Though Lewis has struggled at times, he's still the team's most dangerous weapon. Lynch's job security will be questioned if the losing continues, but with no athletic director and big money being paid to both Tom Crean and Kelvin Sampson, a change seems unlikely.