Head Coach: Tom Allen
2018 Record: 5-7, 2-7 Conference
Season Win Prop: 6.5 wins (O +110, U -140)
Make 4 Team Playoff: +90000
The Indiana Hoosiers have started strongly in non-conference play the last three seasons, and all three of them it has come up just short of making its way into a Bowl appearance. The Hoosiers once again finished 5-7 and losing its season finale to Purdue ensured its fate as a postseason whiff.
Tom Allen has had enough, eager to make a Bowl appearance and overcome the sustained limbo the Hoosiers have found itself in. With a top-40 recruiting class joining this year and a No. 8 ranking in Big Ten recruiting, the Hoosiers should be on the rise. But how soon?
Peyton Ramsey has been consistent and good at quarterback, but he is not without his glaring faults. Most notably, he lacks accuracy and precision with his deep throwing. Michael Penix Jr could eventually be a solution to that woe, but he suffered a knee injury in October that he is still fighting his way back from. Tuttle threw for 3,171 yards and 41 TDs in high school and is the third name to watch for the position battle. While Ramsey may start the season in the pocket, he will have to be better to fight off Penix and Tuttle.
Indiana will need a capable quarterback with its talented receivers. Nick Westbrook, Donovan Hale, Whop Philyor, Miles Marshall, and Ty Fryfogle—along with tight end Peyton Hendershot— all are great options with a capable quarterback.
And the Hoosiers have some talent and depth in its backfield, too. The problem for it is that the OL is shoddy and inconsistent. Stevie Scott averaged 5.0 yards-per-carry last year, with a total of 1,137 rushing yards, and he had a 204-yard game against Virginia. Ronnie Walker Jr. came in more touted than Scott, but he will have to hold off Sampson James to be the No. 2 back. James is a four-star recruit from Indianapolis who chose to de-commit from Ohio State to become a Hoosier. He has local appeal at IU.
The Offensive line returns just two starters, but considering it was not good, that might not be that much of hindrance towards rebuilding it into something far better. The two returnees are both monsters, in Caleb Jones and Matthew Bedford. Jones is 6’8”, 360 pounds, and Bedford is a good athlete who enrolled early to choose IU over both Mississippi State and South Carolina.
Indiana has improved its defense under Allen. Last season, though, it allowed 423.8 yards-per-game while surrendering 83.7 yards more than the previous season. That is not an improvement. Kane Wommack got promoted from line coach to defensive coordinator, and that could help some. The Hoosiers are not a quick team defensively=, and it lacks playmakers at the key positions. Defensive end James Head should be a good pass rusher on the outside, and tackles Jerome Johnson and JUCO transfer Juan Harris will both help with slowing opposing backfield some.
Marcelino Ball will be big at the hybrid Husky position, where he can be a linebacker or safety depending on the formation. LBers James Miller, Micah McFadden, Reakwon Jones, and Thomas Allen are ll going to rotate in at linebacker, which could be a source of strength for Wommack this season with fresh bodies ready to make plays.
The backfield returns three of its starters and will have sufficient experience with that unit. Bryant Fitzgerald had three INTs last year, and the cornerbacks A’Shon Riggins and Andre Brown Jr. are both strong enough not to require many double teams. The secondary is in good hands with those three aforementioned.
Logan Justus made all 11 attempts from beyond 40-yards and finished the season 15 of 18. Haydon Whitehead averaged 40 yards-per-punt, but that figure is deceivingly low due to his great emphasis on ball-placement. Returns were under four yards on average. Fitzgerald and Reese Taylor will be the returners, and Philyor will handle punt returns. Philyor has the speed to make a difference in the punt return game.
The Hoosiers should be an improved team this year, but its sights are set firmly on making a Bowl appearance after falling just shy for three-straight years. DeBoer has a tough task to develop a winning quarterback from what he has to work with, and the offensive line is not all that strong which hardly helps his cause. That will hold Indiana back some from making a huge leap probably, and it has ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten in rush defense for 10-straight years. The team has more depth, speed, and athleticism this year, but the Hoosiers are still fighting just to be respectable in its tough conference.
Prediction: 6 wins (under)