Hoping to continue their recent run of good play, the Northwestern Wildcats welcome the Indiana Hoosiers to Ryan Field this coming weekend for a homecoming matchup with both teams at critical points in their season. For Northwestern, a third straight win would be a major boost to the program’s bowl hopes while Indiana is hoping to right the ship after back-to-back hard-fought losses. Both teams are .500 on the season. Here are three things to help you get acquainted with the Hoosiers:
This isn’t the Indiana of last year
The Hoosiers were a ton of fun to watch last year, led by now-Washington Redskins quarterback Nate Sudfeld and now-Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard. The team scored a ton (35.6 points per game, 22nd in the nation) and gave up a ton (36.8 points per game, 106th in the nation) and played a highly-entertaining brand of football that included a classic double-overtime affair versus Michigan.
But this offseason, the Hoosiers brought in defensive coordinator Tom Allen, and the results have been nothing short of a revelation. The Hoosiers are only giving up 25.3 points per game, over 10 fewer than last year, and the defensive S&P+ numbers have jumped from 105th to 30th. They Hoosiers don’t score as much (25.8 points per game this year), but the defense has been dramatically improved.
The Hoosiers keep finding ways to lose games
Indiana has stuck around with undefeateds Ohio State (for a half) and Nebraska, yet could not hang on in the end. The same goes for Wake Forest, to whom the Hoosiers lost in Week 4. Against Nebraska, it was a ridiculous defensive gaffe.
Against Wake Forest, it was quarterback Richard Lagow throwing five interceptions. This team has lost two of its three games by five points despite solid performances from its defense. If the offense sputters — Lagow already has nine interceptions — this team usually doesn’t win. But give the Hoosiers credit for hanging around.
No, we’re not talking betting here. We’re talking the spread offense that head coach Kevin Wilson and offensive coordinator Kevin Johns run. Remember those names? Wilson coached at Northwestern from 1999 to 2001 with Randy Walker (coming over with him from Miami of Ohio) and Johns was in Evanston from 2004-2010. Their spread hasn’t been quite as good this year, but with the issues Northwestern has had on the back end, it still poses a major threat. The Hoosiers spread the ball around; three players — Mitchell Paige, Ricky Jones, Nick Westbrook — have at least 20 catches already. Running back Devine Redding is a tough task to stop, too. He’s already over 500 yards this season. When Lagow is on, this offense can be difficult to stop, so disrupting his rhythm will be key. More on this later in the week.