Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld returns to help lead the Hoosiers' offense. (Jeff Hanisch / USA Today Sports / November 16, 2013)
The Orlando Sentinel's college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country entering the 2014 season. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 128 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No 88: Indiana Hoosiers
Coach: Kevin Wilson (10-26, entering fourth season; 10-26 overall)
2013 record: 5-7 (3-5 in Big Ten Conference, fourth in Leaders Division)
Look back: Indiana has steadily improved during three seasons under Kevin Wilson, but the Hoosiers continue to look for their first winning season since 2007. The program has developed offensively, going from scoring 21 points per game in 2011 — Wilson's first season — to close to 39 points per game last season. Unfortunately, the defense hasn't made the same sort of strides. Five of the team's seven losses were by double digits, including a 48-point loss to Wisconsin and a 28-point loss to Ohio State.
Offensive starters returning: 8
Offensive starters lost: 3
Defensive starters returning: 9
Defensive starters lost: 2
Key losses: WR Kofi Hughes, WR Cody Latimer, TE Ted Bolser, DE Ryan Phillis, S Greg Heban, K Mitch Ewald
Top returnees: QB Nate Sudfeld, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Shane Wynn, C Collin Rahrig, DE Nick Mangieri, DT Bobby Richardson
Strengths: Indiana ranked second in the conference in scoring offense (38.4 points per game) and second in total offense (508.5 yards per game) behind Ohio State last season. The Hoosiers had the best passing offense in the league thanks, in part, to quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. The duo shared duties in 2013, with Sudfeld (2,523 yards/21 TDs) more of a drop-back passer and Roberson (1,551 total yards/20 total TDs) providing a run threat. Indiana was fourth in the Big Ten in rushing, and returns its top rusher in Tevin Coleman (958 yards/12 TDs).
Weaknesses: While Indiana had one of the top offenses in the Big Ten last season, the defense didn't help the Hoosiers. IU ranked last in the Big Ten in total defense, giving up a league-worst 38.8 points per game. As a result, Brian Knorr was brought over from Wake Forest to revamp a unit that will have nine of the team's top 10 tacklers back, including linebacker David Cooper (85 tackles/2.5 sacks). The secondary managed only seven interceptions and the team was near the bottom of the Big Ten in turnover margin.
If there is a concern on offense, it has to be the lack of depth at the wide receiver position. Three of the team's five top receivers are gone, including Cody Latimer, who registered 72 catches for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns.
Outlook: Indiana feels like a program on the cusp of something big, but it just can't seem to get over the hump. The Hoosiers surprisingly score a ton of points, but they often give up more. If Knorr can fix the defense, wins will follow — especially early in the season. The schedule features winnable nonconference games before diving into a difficult Big Ten schedule that includes road games against Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers and Ohio State.
Aug. 30 Indiana State
Sept. 13 at Bowling Green
Sept. 20 at Missouri
Sept. 27 Maryland