by Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
Numbers can be manipulated in so many different ways to tell so many different stories. There are good statistics, but plenty of bad ones, too. As part of our preview coverage, we’ll try and pick out five of the former category in the hopes of painting a comprehensive numerical portrait for Northwestern’s upcoming opponent. This week: Indiana.
1: Win last season for Indiana
Granted, it was new coach Kevin Wilson’s first year at the helm, but there’s rarely a valid excuse for power conference teams winning just one game in a season. It’s not like the Hoosiers played an exceedingly difficult schedule, either. In the nonconference portion of their slate, they dropped home contests to Ball State and Virginia, then suffered a road defeat at North Texas. IU’s one win came against FCS foe South Carolina State. And it was probably much closer than it should have been: At one point in the fourth quarter, SC State trailed by just 10 points.
This is a transition period for IU, and last year’s disastrous campaign is a testament to the massive rebuilding project Wilson inherited when he took over last season. Yet progress, believe it or not, exists. The roster is young, full of holes and years away from Big Ten contention. But with Wilson’s offensive pedigree, and a gradual increase in resources channeled towards improving facilities and recruiting, IU is well positioned to climb the Big Ten’s competitive totem pole in the coming years. And Hoosiers fans – who have long treated football as little more than a petty diversion from their basketball superiors – might soon have incentive to support not one, but two revenue producing sports at their school.
1: Complete games played this season by quarterback Tre Roberson
The Hoosiers’ win total didn’t budge, but Roberson’s promotion to starting quarterback midway through last season gave IU the unique offensive dynamic it sorely lacked under Edward Wright-Baker. Roberson, a dual-threat signal-caller through and through, never truly rounded into form from a passing perspective, but the threat he posed as a runner was enough to scare defenses on its own merits. In a 59-38 loss to Northwestern last season, Roberson accounted for 290 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. The Hoosiers’ porous defense nullified his brilliant efforts, but Roberson’s performance was impressive nonetheless. Despite the 1-11 finish, Roberson’s emergence provided hope for a better (and more favorable win total) 2012.
The early signs were encouraging; Roberson led Indiana to a 2-0 start, already doubling its wins from a year ago. But in the first half of that second victory, a 45-6 defeat of UMass, Roberson broke his leg and later found out the injury was season-ending. The loss of Roberson is a major blow – so many of Wilson’s schemes depended on the athleticism and versatility he brought to the quarterback position. IU turned the reins over to Cameron Coffman, a more conventional pocket passer. In two games, Coffman completed 40 of 57 passing attempts, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. From a passing standpoint, that is not bad. But Coffman doesn’t offer the complete run-throw package Roberson did, and the Hoosiers offense will suffer as a result.
802: Rushing yards for Stephen Houston in 2011
With Roberson lost for the season, the burden falls on Houston to power the Hoosiers’ running attack. In his first season with IU, Houston – after transferring from Independence Community College – burst on the scene with 802 rushing yards and quietly put together an impressive season. He managed just 62 rushing yards in two games this season, but broke the 100-yard threshold last week against Ball State. In order for IU to win its first Big Ten game under Wilson, Houston must feature prominently in the offensive gameplan. He is the Hoosiers’ most important skill player.
Fortunately for Houston, there’s plenty of depth at running back, meaning he won’t have to shoulder the entire workload. Freshman Tevin Coleman and sophomore De’Angelo Roberts have shared carries with Houston, and surfaced as serviceable rushing threats for the future. With Houston, Coleman and Roberts in tow, the Hoosiers have a deep stable of backs to ease the pressure of Coffman and allow Wilson to run a balanced offense.