It's time to chat about the biggest rivalry around, The Battle for The Old Brass Spittoon. Kyle from The Crimson Quarry joined me to answer some questions about the football (and basketball) programs, and all of our biggest concern: special teams. Thanks to Kyle, and be sure to check out Crimson Quarry for your IU needs.
1) What's the general vibe about the football team and Kevin Wilson in Bloomington these days? I actually visited B-Town for the MSU-IU #RealRival game last year, and it seemed that the fan base was starting to turn a bit. Did the win against your secondary rival Purdue help? Does Wilson need to make a bowl to keep his job?
Kyle: So, I like Kevin Wilson a lot. I do. I have relatively high hopes, but low expectations for what Indiana football is and could be. I am, largely, happy being competitive and scoring a ton of points. This isn't because I'm complacent or don't care about football -- I'm a college football guy and the thought of a having a yearly contender in football to me is erotic to the point that I can't discuss it without becoming uncomfortable. But. I know what Indiana football can be and has been -- historically the worst power five program in the country. This is not an opinion. It is fact.
Heading into the Ohio State game, there was more optimism around this program and team than we've ever seen with our #iufb4gameday movement and the team's success. The atmosphere was absolutely LIT -- and they were five dang yards away from beating the number one team in the land at home. The optimism was further validated with that performance. "Get Nate back, Get Howard back, anything is possible." Even a good deal remained after the Penn State loss, which was easily chalked up to being without Sudfeld and Howard and then losing Zander Diamont mid-game.
Well, all of that is gooooooone.
While y'all were doing whatever in Ann Arbor, Indiana was in the midst of the single most epic and spectacular collapse of the 2015 season. Indiana led Rutgers 52-27 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter. They had a 99.6% chance to win at this time. They did not. I do not know how, still. Predictably, folks are going to want heads to roll for such a program where wins to make a bowl game are so valuable. In the immediate aftermath, I was one. I was mad, online.
But, I've calmed back down now. I still like Wilson. I still think the team is good and is putting a watchable, fun team on the field. But Saturday's performance did make me, for the first time, a bit restless regarding his job status. I think frustration was probably misdirected -- but much of the fanbase will likely disagree with me soon if things continue down this path.
2) What's the status of Nate Sudfeld and/or Jordan Howard? If one or both of those guys doesn't play, how much does it impact the offensive scheme for IU?
Kyle: Sudfeld looked fantastic and like an high-round NFL prospect for three quarters against Rutgers. He makes the offense go -- and when he's on in the manner that he was in the 3rd quarter, Indiana is hard to beat. He'll play, pending something unforeseen. Howard is a bigger question. The ankle seems to be lingering, but I would expect him back Saturday. Surely, right? Indiana hasn't won a game since Jordan Howard got hurt. The dude was the nation's leading rusher when he went down. That should tell you a ton regarding what he means to Indiana's offense. They need him to close games and keep the offense balanced.
3) Special Teams for MSU this year have been incredibly weak. What's the special teams situation like for IU, and do the Hoosiers have any especially dangerous return men? (please say no)
Kyle: OH HEY LOOK Y'ALL WON A GAME ON A BAD PUNT SNAP TOO ON SATURDAY, HUH? This is where everything went to hell in a handbasket for Indiana -- when a ball was snapped over Eric Toth's head on a punt in the early 4th quarter. But really, Indiana has had good special teams play. Griffen Oakes should get consideration as one of the Big Ten's best kickers. Mitchell Evans has at least one punt return for a touchdown this season that I can think of. (Don't make me look it up.) They've been pretty good there. Like, he's not Dante Hall circa like 2002, but it's been solid, sure.
4) Indiana is top-10 nationally in terms of turnover margin at +7. Is this by random chance, taking care of the ball, or generating chances defensively?
Kyle: It's both. Nate Sudfeld had thrown one pick on the year UNTIL, guess when? THE FOURTH QUARTER AGAINST RUTGERS! He threw two in a row, because sports are dumb and stop following patterns and making sense at bad times. Indiana's defense is better than the numbers will give it credit. They've been able to generate turnovers and a good clip and string together a few stops in a row when needed -- see the Ohio State outing. They also randomly forget that you are supposed to tackle the man with the ball on roughly 3-4 plays per game -- see the Ohio State outing. See also, Rutgers, fourth quarter.
5) I'm sneaking a basketball question in because we're #BasketballSchools. Indiana returns basically all of their roster from a season ago and adds a solid recruiting class headlined by Thomas Bryant. What're your expectations like for this IU team? Final Four or bust?
Kyle: My expectation is that this is an Indiana basketball team with high expectations from the fanbase which means the season will be miserable as hell for as long as it's going on. These are Indiana basketball fans we're talking about here. We are all inherently miserable creatures that will find a way to suck all fun and joy out of what should be a very fun and exciting season of watching a fun, yet flawed, team. Everyone will be mad at Tom Crean for some stupid unjust reason all the time. Probably about his pants.
I think Indiana has enough talent to win the conference -- and enough streaky shooting to go very deep into March if games are played on the right day. I also know they could fall flat and finish like 6th in the conference and be like an 8 seed or something. I hate basketball season and I'm going to be miserable all winter.
Finally, your prediction? Any hot Old Brass Spittoon predictions?
Kyle: Okay, bear with me for this ass-covering weak answer. I'd be more surprised if Indiana laid an egg Saturday than if they played y'all closely into the 4th quarter. That's mostly given the circumstances. Y'all are coming off a cathartic win, Indiana's coming off a devastating loss. They should be mad as hell. The collapse doesn't change the fact that I think Indiana, when healthy, is actually a pretty good college football team. It means I don't trust them to close games. I don't think the Hoosiers will win, but it wouldn't completely stun me if they did. We are talking about #CHAOSTEAM here, and this is the perfect #CHAOSTEAM scenario. Michigan State 38, Indiana 34.