Head Coach: Kevin Wilson
2015 Record: 6-7
2015 Bowl: 44-41 Loss to Duke at Pinstripe Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 6 Offense, 7 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +400000
Odds to win 2016 Big Ten Championship: +12500
Regular Season over/under: over 5.5 wins (+105), under 5.5 wins (-125)
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The Indiana Hoosiers finished 6-7 last season, but it almost knocked off the Duke Blue Devils in the Pinstripe Bowl, falling by a FG in OT. Losing three key players in QB Nate Sudfield, RB Jordan Howard and LT Jason Spriggs will set the team back. Despite returning six starters, those losses will loom huge for Indiana whose over/under for season wins is set at 5.5 on oddsmaker 5dimes.
The Hoosiers ranked atop the Big Ten in total offense last season, averaging 36.5 points and 504.3 yards per game, good for No. 24 and No. 14 nationally. Indiana also ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 210.5 yards per game on the ground last season.
Indiana returns All-American lineman Dan Feeney and another 1,000 yard rusher in Devine Redding, so the expectation is that Indiana will again be a top rushing club. WR Sammie Cobbs also caught for over 1,000 yards, so the offense by no means has to be one-dimensional nor predictable.
WRs Ricky Jones and Mitchell Paige each caught for another 684 and 906 yards, respectively, giving Indiana the depth to really move the ball down the field.
Richard Lagow will start at QB after transferring from JUCO. He threw for 4,506 yards and 38 TDs in the past two seasons at Cisco (TX) CC, and he was rated the third-best pro-style JUCO talent in the 247Sports Composite rankings. He should be able to work with the immense amount of talent around him, and it will hardly be the Hoosier offense that holds them back this season, at any rate.
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What Indiana had in offensive greatness, it matched in defensive futility. The Hoosiers allowed 37.6 points and 509.5 yards per game last season while managing a turnover margin of +8 on the season. Defense has been a problem under Kevin Wilson, and last year’s improvement needs to be built upon far more headily.
Tom Allen will take over as DC, and he is the third DC under Wilson thus far. He is running a 4-2-5 scheme that the players seemed to take well to in spring. At LB, there is plenty of talent with seniors T.J. Simmons and Clyde Newton, and juniors Marcus Oliver and Tegray Scales add further experience and depth. Simmons has started 35 career games, and Oliver became the first Hoosier since 2009 to record over 100 tackles (112). The Hoosiers will use a third LB frequently this season, too.
Indiana started all underclassmen in its secondary last season. Chase Dutra, Rashad Fant, Jonathan Crawford and Andre Brown Jr. all showed potential, but the unit has to improve its consistency this season. Fant led the Big Ten in pass breakups with 22, and Crawford was selected to the All-Freshman team. The potential is there for the secondary.
The DL, however, has to replace three starters. Ralph Green III is the only player with starting experience on it.
Kicker Griffin Oakes is a strong kicker who made First Team All-Big Ten last season while hitting 24 of 29 FGA (82.8 percent). He is 37 of 47 over his career and is a strong kicker who can put it in the end zone. Punter Erich Toth must be replaced after averaging 41.7 yards per punt last season.
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Indiana opens the season with four straight home games against FIU, Ball State, Wake Forest and Michigan State in Week 4 to kick off Big Ten play. Facing Ohio State on the road the next week in Week 5 will be a wakeup call to the Hoosiers after its soft schedule the first three weeks of the season.
Last year, Indiana began 4-0 and beat Wake Forest in Week 4, but then proceeded to drop its next six games and fade to irrelevancy as Conference play wore on.
Indiana is an exciting offensive team capable of making fireworks offensively, even graduating Sudfield and other key players. Unfortunately, the Hoosiers defense really gives the a chance to be nothing better than average. Indiana improved on the defensive end of the ball, but a lot more work has to be put in and it has not really worked under Wilson who is desperate to find a DC capable of rerouting its fortunes.
Prediction: 5 wins
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