Indiana is the first area team to start the college football season, hosting Indiana State Thursday night.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This is how many games the last five football coaches who have worked at Indiana University for at least three seasons won in Year Three:
That would be 4, 3, 4, 6 and 2. Not enough.
There has been nothing magical about Year Three. Only Bill Mallory – All-American Bowl, 1986 – made a Year Three bowl.
This is Kevin Wilson's third season at Indiana. The Hoosiers play Indiana State (coached by former Louisville offensive coordinator Mike Sanford) Thursday at 7 p.m. in Memorial Stadium. It is the first of five consecutive home games and eight that will be played in Bloomington.
This is how many wins I am predicting for the Hoosiers:
One, two, three. Certainly four. Likely five. OK, OK, OK, I can find six. With a win against Missouri or Penn State.
And a bowl game, too.
The basketball team won the Big Ten regular season title. The soccer team won the NCAA championship. The baseball team went to the College World Series. IU athletic director Fred Glass is determined to stop the shrugs that surround Indiana football. He is succeeding.
"The other sports are doing great," said Kofi Hughes, a senior receiver. "I've got that time in the back of my head like this is four years now. What am I going to make of it?
"The legacy these seniors want to leave is we weren't losers. We were that team that turned this whole program around and got IU football up to the top."
The quarterback play is excellent. Wilson has two running backs capable of gaining 1,000 yards. There are no holes at receiver. The offensive line has already lost its best player (guard Dan Feeney, ankle injury) for the season, but looks formidable.
Mitch Ewald, the place-kicker, is on the brink of setting school records. With the exception of Feeney, most of the working parts return from an offense that ranked first in the Big Ten in passing offense, second in total offense and fourth in scoring offense – plus quarterback Tre Roberson is healthy.
Am I forgetting anything?
The handy IU stat everybody shares is the Hoosiers lost four games by a combined 10 points. A tackle here, a whistle there, a block there and six wins could have arrived in 2012.
Here is the rest of the story. With three games left, Indiana carried a 4-5 record into a home game against Wisconsin. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the Big Ten title, the Hoosiers were positioned to finish as Leaders Division champs by winning out.
They lost all three games.
By a combined 92 points.
While being outgained by 425 yards.
Translation: If the first nine games suggested the Hoosiers were close to their first winning season since 2007, the last three suggested something else. Indiana isn't going anywhere until it can run the ball inside the 20 or stop the run across the entire field. It isn't more complicated than that.
"One of our main goals is just to stop the run," safety Greg Heban said.
For all the talk about faster tempo, three functioning quarterbacks, upgraded running attack and game-breakers at receiver, Wilson knows his defense must hit, move and stop people between the tackles.
"I think our guys have gotten to like hitting, period," Wilson said. "We like hitting each other.
"Everybody talked, ‘Are you ready to hit someone else?' Yeah. We don't dislike hitting each other because that's a part of the game and there's a physical presence you want to have and sell that. I think our kids are embracing that."
For all the potential offensive stars -- quarterbacks Roberson, Cam Coffman, Nate Sudfeld; halfbacks Tevin Coleman, Stephen Houston; and receivers Hughes, Ted Bolser, Shane Wynn, Cody Latimer -- playmakers better emerge on defense, too.
Here are a few candidates: Safety Antonio Allen, a true freshman from Indianapolis who turned down Ole Miss, Michigan State and others; Defensive tackle Ralphael Green, a mammoth, 307-pound run stopper from San Antonio; and T.J. Simmons, a 240-pound linebacker that IU uncovered in Florida. They can all run. Indiana needs defenders who can run.
"We've got to win more," Wilson said. "First year (1-11) was a flat-out struggle. Last year (4-8) was a little better, but not good enough. It's kind of frustrating but we weren't good enough.
"We didn't choke. We didn't blow it. We just didn't make a play or two that you've got to make to win. We weren't a negative football team in terms of turning it over. We weren't sloppy. We weren't unconditioned. We needed to make some critical plays in certain games, we just weren't good enough.
"You'd like to think one more year of maturity, one more year in our program, a little bit better talent in recruiting, you'd like to think you'll see some more."