Tom Allen and the Hoosiers went 8-4 in 2019 with a defense that didn’t wow anybody but an offense that didn’t turn the ball over. With a lot back on defense, and a dynamic backfield brewing in quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and running back Stevie Scott III, are you buying the Hoosiers in 2020 or selling?
Brandon Vogel: Buy
Indiana is set up pretty well for another solid season of progress. The Hooisers have more than 73% returning production at running back and receiver, and more than 79% of their tackles, TFLs and passes defended back. The big bet here is on Penix. When he’s healthy Indiana’s offense is more dangerous, but season-ending injuries have curtailed both his seasons in Bloomington. The defense, with so much returning, will be fine under Tom Allen. The concerns for me are not on the field with this team so much as on the sidelines, where a few holes had to be filled. Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer returned to Fresno State after a year with the Hoosiers to take over the Bulldog program. Indiana promoted from within and is going the co-OC route. The bigger offseason shock, however, came when Alabama hired away Indiana’s strength and conditioning coach and director of athletic performance. Al-a-bama. (This remains insane.) The Hoosiers are reportedly spending $700,000 a year on the new strength coach, but these are key losses at a key juncture for a program with some momentum. So, why still buy? It’s a tepid recommendation, but the Hoosiers should have enough experience to still be better than their preseason power rating, even if the record doesn’t show it, and that’s really my criteria for buying or selling. If a power rating I trust says this team is going to be 6.2 points better than the average team in the preseason and at the end of the year said team is 8.6, even if the record’s only 8-4, that’s 2.4 points better (and in my world, 1 power rating point equals 1 million pride points so we just turned a 2.4 million profit). It’s far from a given, but Indiana has a chance to be better without many people noticing they’re better. If it’s not better, at least Hoosier fans can take solace in knowing they helped provide aid to that down-on-its-luck program in Tuscaloosa in its time of need.
Derek Peterson: Sell
My target is going to continuously move with these team previews, so just forewarning. What I’m buying or selling isn’t going to be the same for every team. For example, "Is Rutgers a competent football team this season,” compared to, “Will Ohio State make the playoff?” What am I getting with my money here? A good Indiana team? They were good last season. And considering the Tom Allen tenure began with back-to-back 5-7 seasons, they need to be good again or else the work of 2019 gets a little undone. Such is life in college football. Or am I choosing whether to buy into the belief Indiana will be better than the 8-4 team that damn near made Nine-Windiana a thing? I love Peyton Ramsey; even though Penix gives Indiana a more dynamic backfield, and he wasn’t poor by any means in 2019, I still think Ramsey is the better of the two in a vacuum. Could be wrong, I’m wrong a lot. The defense should be strong again, but are they trading a high-end aerial attack for improvement on the ground on offense, and, more importantly, is that trade-off going to pay off? I’m wary of teams beginning their season against Big Ten opponents, of which there are several, and Indiana opens against Wisconsin on the road. It also plays Michigan State, Penn State, at Ohio State, Illinois, at Michigan and Purdue in the final six weeks without a break. Nine wins or greater would take a special season from Penix and no drop-off anywhere else. So, I’m not necessarily passing on Allen, or even Indiana being a good football team again, but rather passing on the notion they’ll be any higher than fourth in the Big Ten East standings come season’s end.