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Indiana Hoosiers vs. Northwestern Wildcats: Previews, Predictions and Prognostications

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Kevin Wilson, Indiana Hoosiers

The Indiana Hoosiers and Northwestern Wildcats meet in a clash of 3-3 teams trying to keep their names and trying to get better bowl positioning.

When: Sat. Oct. 22, 2016; 12 p.m. ET
Where: Evanston, Ill.; Ryan Field (47,130)
TV: BTN
All-Time Series: Northwestern leads 46-34-1
Last Meeting: Northwestern won 44-29 (2012)
Line: Northwestern (-1.5)

Northwestern and Indiana are of the same family. They are identical in many ways.

Their talent is imperfect, but good enough to compete in nearly every game. Yet not good enough to blow any teams out or win games comfortably. These are, as many of us at Talking 10 like to say — Team Chaos East and Team Chaos West.

Both Northwestern and Indiana have had ups and downs this season.

The Wildcats lost at home to Western Michigan and then, inexplicably, to Illinois State with an anemic offense that was going nowhere.

Typically the Hoosiers are the ones playing without defense and putting up video-game scores. Indiana though has found some defensive identity and have hung tough at times.

They, like the Wildcats, are now at 3-3. Both teams have bowl dreams in their sights. But both could easily fall off the wagon and into the abyss.

That makes Saturday’s game between the two at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill., all the more exciting. It is not just a meeting of two recently revived programs and teams. It is a meeting to set the tone for the rest of their respective seasons and perhaps surprise the big boys in their division in the second half of the season.

1 Burning Question: Which defense wins?

Indiana has never been known for its defense since Kevin Wilson took over. The Hoosiers passed and hoped to outscore you. A throwback to the Randy Walker days at Northwestern — and there is a decidedly Northwestern influence on Indiana’s roster.

This year’s Hoosiers team feels different though. The Hoosiers are giving up 25.3 points per game (about how much they score, actually) and just 372.5 yards per game. Indiana’s defense is actually decent.

Surprisingly, the Hoosiers have the 30th best defense according to Football Outsiders S&P+. Last year, they were 105th. That is quite the turnaround.

Indiana’s rise to 3-3 has been in large part due to this defensive emergence. The Hoosiers are a tough team to score again. Just ask Nebraska, who had trouble gaining distance against Indiana in Bloomington last week. The Hoosiers’ close games have been in the 20s rather than in the 30s and 40s.

Indiana does not have to outscore anyone anymore.

Northwestern had its defensive revival last year. The Wildcats were one of the top defenses in the entire country. They are not as good as they were last year on that end, but still have plenty of talent that can change a game.

The Wildcats defense has slipped, particularly in the secondary where injuries have ravaged the team. But the Wildcats still have talent and the ability to lock a team down for a while.

Whoever wins this game will be the one to control the line and get the key stops on defense.

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2 Key Stats

–92: That is the number of points Northwestern has scored in its last two games. The Wildcats posted 38 points against Iowa and 54 points against Michigan State in their last two outings — both on the road. To comprehend how crazy it is for Northwestern to score 92 points, consider NU scored only 65 points in their first four games this season (16.3 points per game). This looked like the worst offense in the conference (even Rutgers, maybe not Rutgers). Now, the Cats are seemingly an offensive juggernaut.

–0: Indiana’s defense has given the team’s offense a bit of a cushion. And nowhere is that seen more than in the team’s turnover differential. The Hoosiers have created 11 turnovers and given up 11 turnovers, including nine interceptions from quarterback Richard Lagow. Turnovers always help turn the tide in any game. Indiana has to win this battle to win the game.

3 Key Players

–Austin Carr, Northwestern WR: What has Austin Carr not done for Northwestern this year? Carr leads the Big Ten with 595 yards on 43 catches. He has scored a touchdown in the last five games for the Wildcats. And he is virtually the Wildcats’ only consistent receiver. He averaged 99.2 yards per game — the next highest receiver catches 35.3 yards per game. Even when teams know Northwestern is giving it to Carr, he still finds a way to get open.

–Devin Redding, Indiana RB: Justin Jackson will certainly get all the accolades for the running back position. The Hoosiers should feature a pretty pass-heavy attack against the Wildcats’ still-struggling secondary. But they will have to establish a decent ground game to complement. Redding has had an up-and-down season in rushing for 548 yards and one touchdown at the midpoint of the season. That is certainly a sign he can pick up yards though, even against a stout Northwestern run defense.

–Tegray Scales, Indiana LB: The Hoosiers will have a tough task to stop the Wildcats’ suddenly multi-faceted offensive attack. That always falls on the linebackers to do everything. And Scales has largely done that. He has a pick, two sacks, 12.0 tackles for a loss and a team-high 57 tackles. Scales will have to contain Jackson and be active in the pass game as Northwestern has worked underneath much more during this offensive revival.

4 Staff Predictions

Andy: Northwestern 28-24
Dave: Indiana 35-34
Phil H.: Northwestern 24-21
Philip R-R.: Indiana 31-28

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Hoosiers Football

Indiana Hoosiers 2018 Season Review: The good, the bad and the ugly

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The bowl games are known, the College Football Playoff committee continues to screw with the Big Ten and programs across the country are in reflection mode. 

So, we’ll join them in taking a look back at the 2018 season in-depth. That starts with an honest assessment of the good, the bad and the ugly that took place this year. 

Previous Recaps: Wisconsin Badgers | Illinois Fighting Illini

For the Indiana Hoosiers, there’s no bowl game like many were thinking would happen. So, that means the time for reflection in certainly now. 

What happened to a season many thought would see the Hoosiers head to a bowl game? A disappointing 5-7 campaign is what happened and we’ll try to get to the bottom of the why here for you. 

The Good

Stevie Scott. 

Need we say more? Probably not, but let us expound on the breakout star of the season for the Hoosiers. 

Scott finished the year 4th in the Big Ten in rushing, racking up 1,137 yards on 228 carries with 10 rushing touchdowns to his name as well. 

Just how vital was Scott to the Hoosiers success? His 228 carries were the second-most of any running back in the Big Ten this year. Imagine where Indiana would be without him? It’s a frightening thought. 

The Bad

Indiana’s next step can’t come without a better defensive performance. This was supposed to be the strength of the head coach, but you can make a really solid argument that since becoming the head man the defense has taken a turn for the worse. 

No example of that is better than the lack of production from the Hoosiers pass defense. 

Indiana finished 11th in the Big Ten in pass defense, giving up an average of 240.6 yards per game. That’s a massive drop from last season, were IU was 4th in the Big Ten last year in passing defense, giving up just 179.7 yards per game. 

You may be able to chalk some of it up to players who were off to the NFL or the real world thanks to graduation, but this is a program that should be building enough depth to sustain a loss or two at any position. Losing one Rashad Fant shouldn’t mean the entire group gives way. 

This was also a pass defense that gave up a B1G-worst 27 passing touchdowns to just 13 interceptions on the season. Something has to change here given the pass-happy offenses that permeate the Big Ten East division these days. 

The Ugly

Earlier on we mentioned the name Stevie Scott. One could argue he was the only good piece of news for this offense in 2018. 

Ignore the fact that Indiana’s pass game was third in the conference by the numbers (and yes, I’m a numbers guy). Were those numbers because of pure quality or quantity? Indiana also finished third in the B1G in passing attempts on the year as well. 

The Hoosiers also complied just 257.8 yards per game through the air with Peyton Ramsey at quarterback. Indiana was also third in the league in passing offense last season, but averaged just about 10 yards per game more. 

In fact, the analytical numbers bare the fact that it was really the run game that was the difference this year. With a solid run game, the Hoosiers offense went from 98th to 72nd in the country in S&P+ offensive rankings. 

While Ramsey threw for more than 2,800 yards this year, he also had a touchdown to interception ratio of 19 to 13 — not exactly killing it. 

It is a bit baffling because it isn’t like there is a dearth of talent at wide receiver or anything. Names like Simmie Cobbs and Nick Westbrook are quality receivers that most teams would love to have in the mix. 

Neither of those names were the one to lead the team in receptions either and only one of the teams receivers finished in the top 10 of the conference in receptions and that was Luke Timian, who had 46 receptions for just 422 yards and not a single touchdown. 

That should tell you all you need to know about how misleading the passing game stats were for the Hoosiers in 2018. 

Growth from the passing game is needed if this offense and this team want to get back to a bowl game. We’ll see if they have that ability in 2019, as it’s a make-or-break year for head coach Tom Allen. 

 *all stats courtesy of CFBstats.com unless otherwise noted.

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Hoosiers Football

Predicting the 2018 Indiana Hoosiers season game-by-game

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As the 2018 college football season enters the first real week, it’s time to lay everything on the line for the Indiana Hoosiers. For us at talking10 that means it’s time to go game-by-game and give you how we see the season playing out.

The annual tradition continues, but with a new twist. This year we’re going video format as we re-launch our YouTube page. So, how does our talking10 kingpin, Andrew Coppens, see the 2018 Indiana Hoosiers season playing out? 

Let’s take a look: 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the talking10 YouTube page. We’ll have video breakdowns and commentary all throughout the 2018 football season. You don’t want to miss it. 

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Can Illinois or Indiana’s QB change spark either program?

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We’ve nearly hit the halfway point for some teams in the Big Ten, and that means time for plenty of reflection. Two programs have done plenty of that over the past week, as both Illinois and Indiana have gone in different directions with their starting quarterbacks.

Earlier this week, Illinois announced that Jeff George Jr. would be the starter. It was a move few didn’t see coming given the anemic production of the Illini offense with Chayce Crouch at quarterback.

Indiana wasn’t far behind, as head coach Tom Allen revealed redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey would become the sole quarterback to play going forward. It ended four weeks of a two-quarterback system in place.

Both decisions seems smart on paper, but which one will make the biggest impact on their team?

Case For Peyton Ramsey:

Sometimes you win the job out of necessity and some times you win the job because you’ve outplayed everyone else. For me, the latter is true for Ramsey.

One of the most undertold stories of this season has been Indiana’s struggles in the pass game. Everyone saw them carve up Ohio State’s defense for over a half and assumed all was good. Well, Lagow has been ineffective and Ramsey has added a different dimension to an offense trying to find an identity.

To date, Ramsey has split time with Lagow in four games. He’s completed 60.4 percent of his pass (besting Lagow’s 56.3 mark) for 316 yards (6.6 yards per attempt, compared to 6.4 for Lagow). In just 48 attempts this season, Ramsey has equaled Lagow’s TD number at 4, while throwing just one interception.

Throws like this one to Simmie Cobbs for an 18-yard TD is the spark and kind of performance Ramsey can produce:

With an offensive line in flux, Lagow’s immobility has shown to be a big issue. He’s got the arm, but it really isn’t any good when you are under pressure and can’t move? Lagow’s got minus-30 yards on the season, meanwhile Ramsey is second on the team with 117 yards on 34 carries in his limited time on the field. That’s good production for a team searching to get back to the wild offensive numbers they are used to putting up.

A spark is needed, but so is consistency more than anything. Ramsey provides both and for a Hoosiers team that has a ton of talent around him, this should be the calming influence needed to help this team get to a bowl game.

That’s especially the case when you notice how Allen and his teammates respond to his mentality on and off the field.

“It’s more collective. It was really just this game. It was more of a buildup over time,” Allen said earlier this week, via Indiana’s Scout website. “We love both guys, awesome people. … There’s just a grit to (Ramsey), a toughness to him. He’s got a linebacker mentality to how he works.”

Case for Jeff George Jr.:

Illinois is in the middle of a youth movement on both sides of the

George also isn’t a first time starter. He played starter last season, being inserted in to the toughest of road situations possible — a freshman on the road at Michigan. That experience can be helpful for sure, and something George Jr. brought up in talking to the media this week.

“I’m excited to go out there and try to make something happen and try to get this offense rolling. I think I can do my part,” George Jr. said, via IlliniInquirer. “I feel like I know how tough it is to win a game. We went through some ups and some downs last year and now nothing is new.”

There’s also the fact that it did seem as if his connection with the likes of Malik Turner, Mike Dudek and Co. was better than Crouch’s was.

Look, something had to happen, because with Crouch at QB the Illini offense became as one-dimensional as Minnesota’s offense often was with Mitch Leidner behind center the past two years. It didn’t work well for the Gophers, and with a defense still figuring out who it is for the Illini, that would’ve been disastrous the rest of the way.

This is also a great opportunity to showcase George Jr. against the toughest of competition. He’ll go up against a schedule that includes Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin still to go.

Head coach Love Smith seems to be going with a sink or swim mentality to this team — pushing younger players to the brink to see if they respond or fold. Putting George out there as the starter the rest of the way is more of that, and it may be that the rest of his teammates respond to that idea more than they did with Crouch.

Final Verdict: Peyton Ramsey

This one is easy for me. Ramsey has more weapons to work with in the form of wide receivers like Simmie Cobbs and Luke Timian in the fold. He also has a decent running back in freshman Morgan Elison, who is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and has 310 yards in four games so far this season.

As for Jeff George Jr.? Sure, he’s got the same freshman running back with potential as Indiana does, but he’s not set up for success like Ramsey is. Mike Dudek is a weapon and Malik Turner can be good…but Turner has also been inconsistent to say the least.

George also has a bigger body of work, and that body of work suggests a pretty average quarterback at best. He’s completing just 43.1 percent of his passes for 681 yards and five touchdowns to seven interceptions in five games played in his career.

Call me crazy, but those numbers don’t inspire me.

Let’s see who can play better, but if there’s someone who has already shown the ability to succeed under pressure, that has been Ramsey. I’ll take his numbers, situation and moxie over George any day of the week.

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Buckeyes Football

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Preview: Welcome to the Big Ten in Week 1

The 2017 season kicks off with a Big Ten matchup for the first time in years. Join us as we preview the Buckeyes vs. Hoosiers.

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J.T. Barrett, Ohio STate Buckeyes

When: Thurs., Aug. 31; 8pm ET
Where: Bloomington, Ind.; Memorial Stadium (52,929)
TV: ESPN
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 72-12-5
Last Meeting: Ohio State win 38-17 (2016)

 

Welcome officially to the 2017 college football season my fellow Big Ten nuts out there. There couldn’t be a more perfect way to start the season than by hitting the ground running with some B1G football, and that is exactly what we get on Thursday night as the Ohio State Buckeyes and Indiana Hoosiers collide in Bloomington, Ind.

This game may not be a marquee matchup, but it is a Big Ten game and there are plenty of storylines all around this one. We’ve got ex-Indiana head coach turned Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson against his old team. We’ve got two quarterbacks with a lot to prove entering their senior seasons and a whole cast of new characters on the Buckeyes sideline.

We’ll start to get answers to a lot of big questions, but let’s kick our preview off with a look at the most burning question entering this game.

1 Burning Question: What offenses will we really see?

Indiana and Ohio State provide plenty of intrigue, you know, with the whole Kevin Wilson as co-OC vs. his old team and all that. But, the biggest question burning in my mind is just what both offenses will actually look like in Week 1.

Will the Hoosiers keep the offense that Wilson laid the foundation for or will we see some wrinkles? What about Wilson’s influence on Urban Meyer’s power-run version of the spread offense. That isn’t exactly Wilson’s cup of tea and it appears that the passing game is going to be critical to success for the Buckeyes in 2017.

So, if you’re watching this game, keep a close on just how different or not these offenses are for the 2016 versions we saw. Whichever one either adjusts best or executes the old version best is likely to come away the winner on Thursday night.

2 Key Stats

21: That is Ohio State’s current winning streak against the Hoosiers. 

Ohio State has beaten up on a lot of teams over the years, but few have been beaten up as bad as the Hoosiers have been. Even with the resurgences of the IU program to respectability, it hasn’t changed the fact that they can’t seem to beat the Buckeyes ever. Indiana’s last win in the series came back in 1988, a 41-7 beat down of the Buckeyes. Why is that relevant to this game? Well, that win also took place in Bloomington, Ind. and a 21-game win streak is long for anyone, including the Buckeyes.

152.2: That was Indiana’s rushing average per game in 2016.

It also happens to be a low-water mark for a program that became one of the Big Ten’s best rushing attacks over the course of the previous three seasons. Last season showed that the depth that was once there had become depleted. Even with 1,000-yard rusher Devine Redding in the mix, the Hoosiers slipped to 11th in the Big Ten in rushing. While the passing attack will always get the big attention, the silent and deadly run game needs to return in Bloomington for the Hoosiers to have success.

 

3 Key Players

Mike Majette, RB (Indiana): Why is a guy you’ve likely never heard of so vital to the cause for the Hoosiers? Well, one of the best-kept secrets to the Hoosiers rise under Kevin Wilson was the ability of the run game. From 2013 to 2015, the Hoosiers ranked no worse that fourth in the Big Ten in rushing offense. Last season saw a dramatic falloff as Jordan Howard left for the NFL draft and the Hoosiers were just 11th in the Big Ten in rushing. Majette played in just eight games, but put up a healthy 4.6 yards per carry in his sophomore season. If the Hoosiers want to win tonight, Majette needs to be a star and right now, that is a big question mark.

J.T. Barrett, QB (Ohio State): If you would’ve told me that we haven’t seen J.T. Barrett win a Heisman Trophy following his freshman season, I would’ve thought you were crazy. Yet, Barrett hasn’t lived up to the potential shown in his first season. Now, we have Barrett working with a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. All the talk this offseason has been how Barrett can improve as a pocket passer and as a true dual-threat quarterback. Will Wilson’s influence on the offense be a spark for Barrett or has he hit a ceiling? With Indiana’s improving defense, he will be tested tonight.

Damon Arnette, CB (Ohio State): Sometimes there is nothing like being thrown in to the deep end of the pool. While Arnette got game action in his freshman season — making 21 tackles and picking off one ball — there’s a difference between being a bit player and “the guy.” Arnette steps in to starters role for the first time and he’ll likely have the biggest test of the season going against quality names like Simmie Cobbs, Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale. Can he pass this test early on? If not, it could be dangerous news for the Buckeyes hopes in 2017.

B1G Prediction:

The Buckeyes defensive line is scary good, but the rest of the team is a bit suspect in terms of experience heading in to the opener. While there is a ton of potential and recruiting talent, let’s see it on the field. Personally, I believe the OSU defense has a scare put in to them for the first half of the game at the very least. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Hoosiers putting up 17 points in the first half before being shut down after adjustments are made at halftime.

This will be best Memorial Stadium atmosphere ever: Perhaps atmosphere and Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. don’t always go hand-in-hand (unless you’re talking about one of the worst in the Big Ten).

Score: Ohio State 34, Indiana 17 (Listen here for more on the game).

 

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