The jokes about Indiana controlling its own destiny in the Big Ten Leaders division will persist for another week, but the bowl game possibilities within reach for the Hoosiers are no laughing matter.
IU must pull off a upset to reach six wins, making that early season defeat to Ball State all the more vexing. Remaining are Wisconsin and Penn State, both of which will assuredly be favorites. Rival Purdue is struggling, but as home field advantage in the annual clash for the Old Oaken Bucket. Nevertheless, Kevin Wilson’s team has already exceeded expectations to this point — why not twice more?
The Hoosiers channeled the Hickory High School basketball team of the film sharing a nickname with Indiana. Not to belabor the analogy, the parallel of underdogs defying all sporting logic is fitting. Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue all boast more talent on paper.
Then again, so did Iowa.
Wilson cycled through quarterbacks as he has throughout the season. Indiana’s potent spread offense has averaged nearly five touchdowns per game, despite having to employ both Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld. Then again, it may not be such a “despite” proposition. Wilson is massaging match-ups to give Indiana its best opportunity to win. In the Hoosiers’ first Big Ten win under Wilson last week, Sudfeld fit that bill. Saturday against the Hawkeyes, Coffman got the call.
Coffman was careful the football, bucking the turnover trend that benched him against Illinois, and scored three touchdowns. Indiana settled with Coffman behind center, overcoming an early 14-0 deficit. The entire team seemingly fed off the adjustment, because Iowa would only score once more the remainder of the evening.
And the defensive effort was another defying of precedent for Indiana. While Wilson’s high tempo offense cultivated at Northwestern and Oklahoma has produced basketball-like points for the Hoosiers, the defense has given up similar scores. Iowa was unable to sustain its initial flurry, the inconsistencies of depth issues at running back rearing their head once more. The Hawkeyes accrued just 96 yards on the ground against a a defense that had been surrendering over 220 per game coming in.
The void of Mark Weisman was plainly evident for Iowa; so was the absence of Mika’il McCall and Marcus Coker. Iowa’s revolving door of backs has created instability in the offense that has Hawkeye fans losing confidence in Kirk Ferentz. The fever pitch lamentations reached earlier in the season could return with Iowa now dipping below .500, the polar opposite of Indiana’s outlook.
After finishing an atrocious 1-11 last season, Wilson has the Hoosiers heading in the right direction. It will take a Hickory’esque effort in its remaining contests, but Indiana reaching the postseason would be a real-life Hoosiers story.