As the 2020 Big Ten football season gets closer and closer, we continue our Michigan State Spartans’ opponent previews with the Indiana Hoosiers. The Spartans and Hoosiers battle in East Lansing on Nov. 14, in what would be considered Week Four of the conference schedule.
To help paint the pictures of what Indiana looks like heading into the regular season, Mike Miller of Crimson Quarry — the quintessential site for all things Hoosiers — gives great insights and analysis into the Big Ten foe we battle for the Old Brass Spittoon.
Here is what we need to know about Indiana:
List your team’s key departures:
- Coy Cronk, LT, four-year starter, grad transferred to Iowa
- Peyton Ramsey, QB, off-and-on starter since 2017, grad transferred to Northwestern
- Ronnie Walker, RB, former 4-star recruit, transferred to Virginia
- Nick Westbrook, WR, graduated
- Reakwon Jones, LB, graduated
- Donavan Hale, WR, graduated
- Simon Stepaniak, OG, graduated/drafted by Green Bay Packers
List your team’s key returnees:
- Michael Penix Jr., QB, R-So., in 2019 he set the program single-season completion percentage mark (68.8), which also ranks sixth in Big Ten history, IU’s most talented quarterback since Nate Sudfeld (though both have very different games)
- Stevie Scott, RB, Jr., Enters 2020 needing 18 yards to reach 2,000 for his career
- Whop Philyor, WR, Sr., 2nd Team All-Big Ten last year, IU’s Offensive Player of the Year, program’s all-time leader in double-figure catch games (5)
- Peyton Hendershot, TE, R-Jr., in 2019 he set IU’s single-season TE records with 52 catches and 622 yards
- Matthew Bedford, LT, Soph., 2019 IU Offensive Newcomer of the Year
- Jerome Johnson, DT, R-Sr., IU’s best D-lineman two years in a row, NFL Draft prospect
- Marcelino Ball, Hybrid LB, R-Sr. [Editor’s note: Ball has since suffered a season ending ACL tear and will not play this season]
- Tiawan Mullen, CB, Soph., freshman All-American, IU’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year, led the Big Ten and finished second among freshmen nationally with 13 breakups
List a few true freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact:
- Jovan Swann, DT, graduate transfer from Stanford
- Dylan Powell, OG, graduate transfer from Stanford
- Rashawn Williams, WR, Fr., former 4-star recruit
Brief overview of 2020 team:
Indiana took the long-awaited major step forward in 2019, winning eight games for the first time since 1993. This year, with the funky schedule, the question isn’t so much how many games will IU win, but which teams the Hoosiers will beat. The pieces are in place to win a game on the road at Michigan State, or at home against Michigan or Penn State — and if there were ever a season when IU could do something it’s not necessarily expected to do, it might be this one.
Health feels like a major storyline to monitor, particularly at the quarterback position. Michael Penix has demonstrated that he has the talent to be in the conversation with the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks, but he’s yet to prove he can stay healthy for a full season. If he can, Indiana’s offense should be explosive.
The soul of IU football, however, is such that Bad Things seem to be lurking around every corner. It’s rare that this program has looked at an opportunity for prosperity and done anything other than vomit on its shoes. Even with all the returning talent and rightfully-high expectations, skepticism is baked into every fall season in Bloomington. IU football often does IU football things. This year, can it not?
What’s your team’s biggest strength?
Returning experience: In February, ESPN ranked IU 11th nationally in expected returning production. For a program that won eight games last fall, the majority of the most important players are back.
What’s your team’s biggest weakness?
Pass rush: It feels like a perennial question mark for Indiana. IU has some interesting talent up front, but until this group generates more reliable pressure, it will remain a concern.
How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff?
After leading IU to its first eight-win season in nearly three decades last fall, Tom Allen is beloved in Bloomington. Not only has the team’s improvement earned him the praise and admiration of IU fans, but folks appreciate his approach to the profession. He’s different from a lot of his college coaching colleagues in that he doesn’t seem like a scumbag. His passion for his home state, his drive to make IU a very good football program and the personal empathy and care he extends to his players have made him one of the most popular and respected figures in the IU orbit. His mantra of L.E.O. — love each other — illustrates the way he guides the team, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single IU fan willing to speak ill of him. As far as his staff, folks were disappointed to see offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer leave after only one year. It was an understandable and amicable departure — DeBoer is now head coach at Fresno State. There’s some skepticism about DeBoer’s replacement, Nick Sheridan. This is Sheridan’s first crack at a big-boy OC job, and there’s reasonable concern about a regression.
Who is your team’s MVP this season and why?
QB Michael Penix Jr.: Because he’s going to absolutely sling it. On the short list of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks, Penix is no worse than third-best in the league.
Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss:
5-3; Best Win: Michigan; Surprise Loss: Maryland