Indiana Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Indiana Hoosiers
Posted Aug 6, 2006

Indiana Hoosiers Preview 2006 - IU Further Analysis

1st and Ten – “Hardy, har, har” – On most occasions, scanning the first team All-Big Ten offense/defense listings for Ohio State Buckeyes or Michigan Wolverines is a matter of course.  For say the Indiana Hoosier faithful, it’s more like finding a needle in a haystack.  That is, until this year and wide receiver James Hardy.  Sure, Indiana has had candidates in the past, but perhaps not a guy of this skill level and production.  Succinctly put, Hardy is a beast and might be the most difficult receiver to cover in the nation, alongside Georgia Tech stud WR Calvin Johnson.  The Tech star is so strong and physical and catches nearly everything in his area code, and Hardy looks down on Johnson.  At 6’7”, Hardy has about 3 or 4 inches on Johnson and almost 7 to 8 inches on most cornerbacks in the Big Ten.  The Hoosier WR is more like the small forward that he originally thought he was going to be.  How do you cover someone that big and tall?  When you’re a cornerback matched up against Hardy in press man coverage, what are you thinking?  QB Blake Powers has such a wide room for error that it’s hard to believe that the Hoosiers don’t throw him the ball on nearly every play.  He can throw a jump ball or zip one a foot over Hardy’s dome and the Hoosier pass catcher will come down with it.  Last year, he caught 61 passes and you could argue that he just really started to scratch the surface of what he can do.  On a team that lacks a dominant running threat, Hardy has to be a 8 to 10 catch a game guy, essentially ‘carrying’ the ball as a second RB might to replace what the running game can’t do.  But, you know the deal, you win by getting your best player the ball.  Hardy is that guy and because of it, Indiana players/fans have something to look forward to at season’s end.

2nd and Seven – You can’t win without the ball – The first tenet in Big Ten defense – stop the run.  Indiana hasn’t satisfied that tenet for a few years, but especially last season.  The Hoosiers gave up a whopping 215 yards per game and if the Hoosiers are concerned with getting themselves into bowl contention, they better improve this one facet of their overall defense or it could be another long season.  The defensive line returns interior guys with experience, but the linebackers have some holes to fill with Kyle Killion and John Pannozzo graduating.  Even though the Hoosiers time of possession last season, on average, was equal to its opponents, the tell-tale sign of how this defense is performing is run yards per carry/per game and time of possession.  If those aren’t positive stats for the Hoosiers, they’ll be flirting with the Big Ten cellar this year.

3rd and Three – Leaving his heart in Bloomington – Indiana’s return game is solidified by one of the smallest players in the Big Ten - Lance Bennett.  The accomplished song writer concocts his own tune when he’s running back punts and kicks – averaging 6.6 yards per punt return and nearly 23 yards per kickoff return.  Bennett’s quickness and explosiveness make covering punts and kicks against Indiana about as difficult as stopping an offensive play.  He doesn’t get much action on the offensive side of the ball, but that doesn’t mean that Bennett doesn’t have the opportunity to put pressure on opponents’ defenses.  Teams won’t be singing a happy tune when #3 has his hands on the ball.

4th and One – Could it be? – Bowl games are few and far between for the Hoosiers, try 13 years worth of few and far between.  But, under the current college football landscape, it takes seven wins.  No matter how you get them, as a BCS school, win seven.  For Indiana, if they hope to break the bowl-less streak, they better get it done early in the season.  The first four games of the season are winnable, which then brings Wisconsin into Bloomington.  Pull the upset, with a trip to Illinois the following week and it’s not outside the realm of possibility to be playing in December.  However, if they don’t get those key early victories, forget it.  The second half of the season is a monster.  Knowing that they’ve got to win only one or two of those games to get bowl eligible against the perceived top half of the Big Ten is, well, it’s tough, but not a complete miracle.  But, get tripped up early against one of the early four and there’s no chance of playing in a bowl game.  They’ve got seven games at home, so who knows?  The schedule makers did give them a chance, and that’s all you can ask for.
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