The IU football team is spending their second bye week of the season both looking back at missed opportunities and ahead to future possibilities.
The Hoosiers, 3-4 overall, and 1-2 in the Big Ten, need to sweep home games against Minnesota (Nov. 2), Illinois (Nov. 9), and Purdue (Nov. 30) realistically to ensure the required six wins to go "bowling."
A recap of the positives, negatives, and in-betweens through seven games.
Good: IU ranks among the nation's leaders in total offense, passing offense, and scoring. Head coach Kevin Wilson has managed to massage a two quarterback system with both sophomore Nate Sudfeld and athletic Tre Roberson each displaying effectiveness. Sudfeld possesses the stronger arm and downfield passing threat while Roberson offers a change of pace with his ability to scramble and throw on the run.
IU's receiving corps, headlined by junior Cody Latimer, ranks among the deepest in the nation. Latimer displays the skill set required to play on Sundays with a combination of speed, hands, and run after the catch ability. Senior Kofi Hughes is a dependable deep threat, prone to making the acrobatic grab. Tight end Ted Bolser gives IU a solid in-line blocker and dreliable red zone option.
The Hoosiers running game is inconsistent, but sophomore Tevin Coleman demonstrates flashes of becoming a special back. Coleman possesses good size and vision, displays body lean, and is a cutback runner who can accelerate quickly in the open field.
Senior place kicker Mitch Ewald has eclipsed school records and was named Big Ten Special teams Player of the Week against Michigan. A dependable, accurate kicker, Ewald's range has increased since he arrived in Bloomington. He can be counted on from inside 50 yards.
Bad: A disappointing home loss to Navy in the season's second contest may haunt the Hoosiers well into the offseason. IU fell behind 17-0 to the Midshipmen's option attack, rallied, but couldn't execute a late onsides kick in a 41-35 defeat. The Middies have proven to be an average team overall, but the Hoosiers lack of defense began to show up in this game.
A patched work offensive line that has retooled on the fly minus three projected starters has stunted the Hoosiers ground game. IU misses the ability to control the clock and the game as well as keep the defense off the field. Pass protection has been adequate, although the quarterbacks were under siege against the Missouri and Michigan State defensive lines.
Promising freshman safety Antonio Allen went down with a season-ending ACL injury last week at Michigan. Allen had begun to emerge as a potential bright spot in an otherwise disappointing unit.
Ugly: There aren't strong enough words to describe the futility of IU's defense. While the offense is among the nation's leaders, the Hoosiers defense ranks near the bottom. IU is 119 in total defense, 110 in both run defense and points allowed, 107 in passing yards given up. Doug Mallory, the Hoosiers co-defensive coordinator who joined Wilson's staff in the beginning, is drawing fire for another substandard effort. Despite bursts of impressive individual play, IU misses too many tackles, isn't physical enough, and has too many mental breakdowns and blown asssignments to compete in the Big Ten. As to the question of whether it's a talent or coaching issue, the answer is probably a little bit of both. The Hoosiers are begin dragged down by the defense's inability to get off the field.