What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Kyle from Crimson Quarry, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Indiana.
1) I'm nervous about this game. How nervous should I be about Indiana in this game?
KYLE: I don't know, Ross. I don't know. Indiana's good? Maybe? I think some nerves are just. The #CHAOSTEAM moniker is very, very real for Indiana. In a vacuum, this team has the offensive talent to beat anyone in the country. They've shown that against Ohio State and Michigan State on national television. They also might give up five fourth-quarter touchdowns to the vacuum itself. And I don't mean a piece of household equipment meant for cleaning carpets. I mean an empty space of air.
There's cautious optimism about this football game in Bloomington. There's a feeling that surely this team is due to get the big one after the close calls over the last two seasons. Indiana-Iowa games have had plenty of weird in recent years -- the 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2014 games all come to mind. Will it happen? TUNE IN SATURDAY NIGHT AROUND 7:30 PM EASTERN AND SEE WHICH FANBASE IS CURLED IN THE FETAL POSITION SURROUNDED BY EMPTY BOTTLES OF MAD DOG.
2) Fourth quarters have been a bit of a problem for the Hoosiers -- they've been outscored 114-44 in the final quarter of games, including 56-0 over the last three games. What's the deal? Are the Hoosiers just running out of steam after three quarters?
KYLE: I could answer almost all of these questions with I don't know, Indiana's weird. The best answer I can give you is that Indiana is not a team designed to play with a lead, unfortunately. With Kevin Wilson's passing attack and quick tempo, it's not uncommon to for a drive to maybe last 30, 40 seconds at most if they go 3-and-out. On the other side of the ball, the defense is prone to overpursue and miss tackles. What do those things add up to? Successive, quick scores by the opponent. It's exactly how Rutgers scored 29 points in over 17 minutes to come back and beat the Hoosiers back in mid-October. Why does this breakdown seem to happen in the fourth quarter and not earlier? I'm assuming it has something to do with "choking" in any other sport -- being a program or person not used to winning, and then getting a full-dose of #lemonbooty when you're in a big moment.
3) It looks like Iowa is going to see a pretty much full-strength IU offense on Saturday. What should Iowa fans know about Nate Sudfeld, Jordan Howard, and the rest of the weapons in the Hoosier attack?
KYLE: I've had a couple folks ask me if Sudfeld's the best quarterback in the Big Ten. I think there's certainly a compelling argument that he is such. The guy's one of the most productive and accurate passers in the nation, leads the conference in passing yardage, and has really elevated a group of not-hugely-experienced wide receivers in Simmie Cobbs, Ricky Jones, and Mitchell Evans. Jordan Howard is that dude -- when he's healthy. Prior to his ankle injury against Ohio State, no individual in college football had accounted for more yardage on the ground. He's a different runner from the Tevin Coleman big-play, one-cut-and-fly plays of a year ago, but trying to bring down this guy when he's healthy is not dissimilar from being hit over the head repeatedly with a shovel. The bye week last week should have given him time to finally be at 100% on Saturday by 3:30 -- but ankle injuries are weird, man.
4) Indiana's been dead last in the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense every year of the last five years except last year. Are the problems on defense personnel-related? Scheme-related? Both? Is Kevin Wilson ever going to put a halfway decent defense together in Bloomington?
KYLE: We'll chalk it up to youth and inexperience in the secondary. Indiana's loss of Antonio Allen to drug and firearm charges over the summer was devastating. He was a major in-state get for the Hoosiers that had overcome some major life obstacles to rise to become a leader in the locker room and the team's leading tackler at safety. He's been replaced by freshman Jonathan Crawford -- who's still clearly learning on the fly. Indiana's struggled at cornerback, especially, as well. Rashard Fant, while leading the nation in PBU's at many points this season, has had a tendency to get beat deep on a number of occasions. Indiana's front 7 is fine -- and gets a large number of 3-and-outs for a defense that is known to be so "bad." But if an Iowa playmaker can make it to the second level -- well, look out.
5) Speaking of... what's his job status like now? Indiana's not really interested in joining half the Big Ten in looking for a new coach this offseason, are they?
KYLE: They shouldn't be. All these changes should make it more than obvious this is not the time to move on from Kevin Wilson at Indiana -- if it wasn't obvious already. Sure, we all get frustrated after the close losses. But Kevin Wilson is a damn good football coach, and he's tried to not lean on the excuse of Indiana's lackluster football history as a crutch. He won't ever acknowledge how hard it's been to win here historically. But you've got to give him credit for what he's done. He's made Indiana really fun to watch and competitive in big football games. You have to understand what you are and what you're paying at Indiana. Kevin Wilson already makes less money than Memphis' Justin Fuente -- raking in $1.3 million a year. Bill Lynch prior to him was making around $800K. Indiana's slowly committing more resources to football, but they still lag behind the rest of the conference and major college football. In this business, you get what you pay for. You can't go canning Kevin Wilson and expect to bring in some water-walking football savant that will turn Indiana into the next Baylor overnight at that pay grade. You can't.
There's another side to this coin, however. After this season, Kevin Wilson will have two years left on his original 7-year-deal at Indiana. In this day and age, you certainly can't let a coach go into the last year of his deal, and probably shouldn't even let him go into the last two years of his deal. That's damaging to recruiting, and damaging to the program's future. The question then becomes: if Wilson does not get Indiana to a bowl game this season, has he done enough to merit an extension? Is even one 6-6 seasons enough to merit an extension? There are compelling arguments for both viewpoints, and both actions would be justifiable. But if you don't extend Wilson after this season due to on-field results, you might be setting him up for failure in 2016. Indiana will have to replace Nate Sudfeld and a few key offensive line cogs next season, and it might require a bit of a step backward.
I cannot say this enough: Kevin Wilson is a damn good football coach that puts a fun product on the field, and if he's extended, I'm more than cool with it. But if he gets Indiana to 6-6 or 7-5 this season, I wouldn't be shocked to see him look elsewhere. Tons of jobs in college football are going to be open. Some mid-tier power jobs are going to swing and miss on the big names. Would they take a chance on Kevin Wilson's high-octane offense? I could certainly see it, and I wouldn't fault Wilson for making the jump if Indiana can't guarantee his future.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
KYLE: This game's going to be stupid in some way and I think we all know it. It's gonna be weird and chaotic and probably involve lots of points. Not Rutgers-Indiana points, but lots of points nonetheless. I think Indiana does what they've done against Top-10 opponents for the last two seasons. They'll lead early, and I'll say they blow it late because I'm not going to jinx any chance of this happening. Iowa 38, Indiana 31.
Thanks for being a good sport, Kyle, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow. You can check out the CQ crew at Crimson Quarry. You can also follow Kyle on Twitter at @kylerrobbins and CQ at @crimsonquarry. The Iowa-Indiana game is in Bloomington, IN on Saturday, November 7, and is scheduled to start at approximately 2:30 pm CT, with TV coverage from ESPN.