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: Ben from The Crimson Quarry, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Indiana.
1) Inconsistency, thy name is Indiana football? Indiana has literally alternated wins and losses all year (and if that pattern holds, they're due for a loss on Saturday), but their performances have also been pretty Jekyll and Hyde. Beat Missouri on the road, lose at Bowling Green? Are Indiana fans still trying to get a handle on this team? Do you have a sense yet of how good they are?
Ben: I don't really have a great sense of this team yet. You are correct about inconsistency plaguing this team thus far. Last week, however, we played host to a bad North Texas team and mostly tore them to shreds. In this game, Nate Sudfeld finally got the passing game really going, Shane Wynn gradded a couple touchdowns, and the defense forced a couple turnovers. Hopefully, that game gave us some momentum to build on; however, it wouldn't surprise me if the Hoosiers finished anywhere between 4-8 and 8-4 this season.
2) Indiana led the Big Ten in passing the last two season and hasn't finished lower than fifth in the league in the last five seasons, yet this year they're ranked 10th in the league. What gives? Is it just a matter of the running game being so potent this year or are there genuine concerns about the passing game?
Ben: Tevin Coleman is awesome, and seems to rack up at least 100 yards and a touchdown in every game. At this point, there have to be some concerns about the passing game, but we're still recovering from last year's personnel losses. Not having the option to bring in Tre Roberson at QB certainly hurts us, and Sudfeld has been missing Cody Latimer, Ted Bolser, and Kofi Hughes, all of whom were all last year's top targets. My hope is that the passing game got into some rhythm last weekend, and that guys like Wynn, J-Shun Harris, Simmie Cobbs, and Dominique Booth get more comfortable in the system and step up as the season goes on.
3) The good news is that Indiana isn't giving up 30+ ppg on defense this year and they don't have the worst scoring defense in the Big Ten. The bad news is that they're still giving up 28+ ppg and they have the next-to-worst scoring defense in the conference. The pass defense has been especially bad so far, getting toasted for 286 ypg and league-worst 11 TD passes. Just how bad is the Indiana defense this year? Is it truly improved from years past? How much is it going to hold the team back?
Ben: Yes, I think IU's defense has improved, but it still needs work. This season, the Hoosiers brought in Brian Knorr, who ran a pretty solid unit down at Wake Forest. He has implemented a 3-4 defense at Indiana, and while the dividends haven't entirely paid off yet, especially in the passing game as you mentioned, I already see some improvements on the field in terms of tackling and positioning. That pass coverage is still frustrating though - we let two average Maryland quarterbacks burn us two weekends ago. Freshman Tegray Scales is turning into a playmaker on this side of the ball, and Nick Mangieri has continued his good play at defensive end this season for IU.
4) Iowa is among the worst in the Big Ten at converting red zone trips into points (15/22, 13th in the B1G), but Indiana has yet to stop a team from scoring in the red zone this year (16/16). What happens when the very movable object meets the very resistable force?
Ben: I think it comes down to whether IU's defense can bend but not break. If the Hoosiers can keep the Hawkeyes out of the end zone on critical possessions, like they did in the Mizzou game, then they stand a decent chance at winning.
5) So Indiana football 2014: bowl or no bowl? And does Kevin Wilson need to make a bowl game to keep his job?
Ben: I still think we can make a bowl, even if Iowa beats us this weekend. We need three more victories, and I think we can get ones against Michigan and Purdue, and also get one against either Penn State or Rutgers. I think we'll also get a better sense of who's really good in the B1G after the next couple weekends, since right now there haven't been enough conference games to really figure this out yet. Barring a total collapse this season, I think Wilson's job is safe for another year, even if he misses out on a bowl. He has brought alot of attention and enthusiasm to this program.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
Ben: I hate going against my own team, but I have Iowa winning this one, 27-20. The Hawkeyes' consistency puts them over the top, and the Hoosiers are due for a loss since they won last week.
Thanks for being a good sport, Ben, although I still hope your team loses by 50 on Saturday. You can check out the TCQ crew at The Crimson Quarry. You can also follow Ben on Twitter at @VT_Ben and The Crimson Quarry at @crimsonquarry. The Iowa-Indiana game is in Iowa City, IA on Saturday, October 11, and is scheduled to start at 11:00 am CT, with television coverage from ESPNU.