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Indiana Hoosiers preview

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Indiana's offense had to change last season after an injury to Nate Sudfeld. AP Photo/Matthew Putney

Coach Kevin Wilson is approaching half a decade in Bloomington but hasn’t remedied the Hoosiers’ bowl drought—one postseason appearance (2007) in the past 21 years. Indiana draws a soft noncon slate this year (one Power 5 team: ACC doormat Wake Forest), so if he fails again, he might not get another shot.

Offense

How the Hoosiers beat you: When senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 7, Indiana, whose offensive attack normally thrives on pace and in space, was forced to all but abandon the passing game in 2014 (197.0 ypg in its first six games; 85.8 in the final six). Instead, it rode running back Tevin Coleman (7.5 ypc, 22.5 carries per game), who racked up 100-plus yards in all but one contest last year. Transfer Jordan Howard, who set the UAB single-season rushing record with 1,587 yards in 2014, should fill the production hole left by Coleman’s departure. But with Sudfeld—a legitimate NFL prospect—Indiana should also revert to what it does best: using tempo, spreading the field and pitching it around.

How you beat the Hoosiers: At its peak (and when healthy), Indiana scores at a Baylor-like breakneck pace: 38 touchdowns on two-minute drives in 2013 (tied for fifth most in the country that season) and 14 before Sudfeld got injured last year. But it’s big play or bust for the Hoosiers, who simply can’t sustain long marches down the field (38.5 percent third-down conversion rate since 2013, No. 78 in the FBS) or convert goal-to-go drives into TDs (72.4 percent, No. 83 in that same time span).

Defense

How the Hoosiers beat you: There’s no gentle way to put this. The Indiana defense can’t beat you. Pick the poison: Since 2008, the Hoosiers have given up more yards per game (446.7) than every Power 5 program except Iowa State and Washington State, allowed 166 TDs in the air (No. 105 in the FBS) and 181 TDs on the ground (No. 108), and surrendered at least 30 points per game in each of those seasons. Second-year defensive coordinator Brian Knorr implemented a 3-4 upon his arrival but still fielded a defense that got scored on in a hurry, with 20 two-minute TD drives allowed (No. 96). If there’s a silver lining in sight, it’s that Indiana returns only five defensive starters. When the bloodbath is this severe, new blood is not a bad thing.

How you beat the Hoosiers: If you want to chew up yards rushing, Indiana won’t stop you: 4.9 ypc (No. 95). But if you really want to score points in a hurry? Throw, throw, throw. Quarterbacks will like what they see up close: The Hoosiers claim no pass-rushing threats (sophomore NT Nate Hoff is the top returning sack artist with 3½), and their linebackers struggle in coverage. And QBs will like what they see downfield too: IU’s two best DBs in ’14, Tim Bennett (9 pass breakups) and Mark Murphy (2 INTs), depart.