It’s difficult to project optimism when you’re talking about a 4-8 football team, but the return of Nate Sudfeld from a season-ending shoulder injury is surely giving Indiana Hoosiers fans something to look forward to this season. He’s been a highly productive player on a bad football team since his freshman year, when he split time at quarterback.
Sudfeld took over as the full-time starter in 2013 as Indiana boasted one of the top scoring offenses in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers scored 40 or more points in five games, including a 73-35 win over Indiana State in the season opener. Last season, the Hoosiers got off to a 3-2 start before Sudfeld’s season-ending injury. He went down early in the Iowa game and from that point on, Indiana lost six straight and finished with just one more win.
Indiana will be returning eight offensive starters, though it’ll be losing its leading rusher and top two receivers from last season. Running back Tevin Coleman is now at camp with the Atlanta Falcons and receiver Shane Wynn was picked up by the Cleveland Browns. J-Shun Harris II is the team’s top returning receiver. He caught 18 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games played last year.
The defense will be the major concern for the Hoosiers. The unit gave up 35 or more points in seven games last year, and the offense couldn’t keep up without Sudfeld. Indiana fans are hopeful that Sudfeld can help the offense score enough points for them to win a few shootouts.
Sudfeld should help the offense average between 25-35 points per game, but it’ll be hard for the Hoosiers to compete if the defense doesn’t show great improvement. They’ll be returning a few young playmakers in defensive back Chase Dutra and linebacker Tegray Scales, but it’s unclear if they can spark a defense that couldn’t stop anyone a season ago.
I expect the loser of the Indiana and Rutgers game to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten East division in 2015. The ceiling for Indiana should be around five total wins, and I wouldn’t expect any more than two conference wins this year.
Jason Shawley is a Featured Writer for RantSports.com covering Big Ten Football. Follow him on Twitter @jshawls.