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Indiana Football: Top 25 Team With Average Defense

Nate Sudfeld Indiana Hoosiers

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, the Indiana Hoosiers finished the season with 38.4 points per game, 201.8 rushing yards per game and 306.7 passing yards per game. That was good for 17th, 30th and 17th in the FBS, respectively. Despite those magnificent numbers, though, this is a team that finished the season with a 5-7 record and a coach who’s looking very much so on the hot seat heading into this season. If the Hoosiers just had an average defense, they would have been a top-25 football team in 2013.

Before I dive into that, I should probably define what “average” is. Last season, FBS teams allowed an average of 26.2 points per game. If we put that number on Indiana’s 2013 schedule, we see two losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin at the end of the season, meaning, theoretically, the Hoosiers would have been a 10-2 team, not including a bowl result.

Now, I understand there are other factors that would need to be adjusted in order to get a proper estimation, but that gives you an idea of just how far back defense is holding this team. Last season, the Hoosiers’ 0.450 points per play against FBS opponents ranked 32nd. But they also allowed teams to score 0.487 points per play, putting them at 106th in FBS in that category. The stat that really jumped out at me was time of possession. Indiana only held the ball 25 minutes per game in 2013, right on pace with the likes of Oregon. To score 38.4 points in only 25 minutes is pretty astonishing.

When Indiana hired Kevin Wilson as its coach in December of 2010, it consequently gave him his first job as a head coach. What he’s done in Bloomington has mostly gone under the radar. In some ways, I’m sure he’s very thankful for that, but Wilson has built on offense that has proven it can hang with some of the best in the nation.

Wilson’s team should be just as lethal this season as it was last. Quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson both return, as well as running back Tevin Coleman, who averaged 7.3 yards per carry and would have been a 1,000-yard rusher with a full season of work. Leading receiver Cody Latimer decided to forgo his senior season at Indiana and declared for the NFL Draft in January, and senior Kofi Highes expired his eligibility. That hurts the Hoosiers out wide, but there are many returning and incoming athletes who will be able to step in and make plays.

That means much pressure rests on the defense. Indiana will be part of the Big 10‘s East Division, which includes teams like Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan. I’ll give you the good news before the bad news: the Hoosiers return 10 of 11 starters on defense from a year ago, but any improvement will be difficult to see because of a packed schedule.

Indiana has played some of the best offensive football in the country the last two seasons. The problem lies in a defense that is equally awful. If you just give the Hoosiers an average defense to work with, you’re looking a top-25 program in Bloomington.

Tyler Fenwick is a Big 10 writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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