Indiana came up just short of reaching a bowl Game for the third-straight season in 2017 and it only has itself to blame with the Maryland loss standing out. Now in Tom Allen’s third year in charge, the Hoosiers are aiming to return to a bowl, but the loss of experience could be a major issue, especially on the defensive side. Due to a top-heavy division, the Hoosiers are only projected to finish above Rutgers in the Big Ten East (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) and have +120000 odds to win the National Championship.
The offense lost some playmakers, but has a good chance to improve on its consistency and 26.8 points per Game. The first thing is that all five starters are back on the line, which should make everything a little bit easier, even if a new quarterback is under center. Peyton Ramsey (10 TDs, 5 INTs), who saw a lot of time last season, is competing with Arizona transfer Brandon Dawkins and freshman Mike Penix for the starting QB gig. Similar to last year, Allen may use a couple guys throughout the season, which may or may not be a good thing. The return of 2016’s top receiver Nick Westbrook is huge for the passing Game to go with Donavan Hale, also returning from injury, and J-Shun Harris, who is expected to make a jump. The players are there, but replacing Simmie Cobbs won’t be easy. At running back, Morgan Ellison is set for another nice season after rolling for 704 yards and 6 TDs last year. This offense should be better considering Richard LAgow was as mediocre as it gets for a quarterback in 2017.
Defense could be a problem, however, after this group held opponents to a solid 25.3 points per Game, a good number for the Hoosiers. With eight starters graduating, there are problems at every level. The return of the versatile Marcelino Ball, who can play linebacker or safety, at least gives hope to the group. But losing guys up front to go with two regular linebackers and three more in the secondary will be hard to replace. To at least stay competent defensively, senior safety Jonathan Crawford and linebackers Raekwon Jones and Mike McGinnis need to play important roles. If not, the Hoosiers will be outmatched in every Conference Game. Ball can be a great player, but one guy returning from injury can’t mean everything.
The Hoosiers have a chance to win all of their non-Conference Games with the meeting against Virginia being important after IU won 34-17 on the road last season. If that happens, Indiana will be in a good spot with a number of places for wins in the conference, namely the trips to Rutgers and Minnesota early on. But to reach a bowl, it will probably come down to late home Games against Maryland and Purdue. This team couldn’t complete the task last year and it will be up to the offense to do so this time. If quarterback is figured out and the running Game can go to another level, that may be enough to offset a weaker defense and five or six wins are expected again for the Hoosiers.
2018 Indiana Hoosiers Football Schedule
Sept. 1 at Florida International
Sept. 8 vs. Virginia
Sept. 15 vs. Ball State
Sept. 22 vs. Michigan State
Sept. 29 at Rutgers
Oct. 6 at Ohio State
Oct. 13 vs. Iowa
Oct. 20 vs. Penn State
Oct. 26 at Minnesota
Nov. 10 vs. Maryland
Nov. 17 at Michigan
Nov. 24 vs. Purdue