Indiana fans had big expectations for 2014, but injuries to the quarterback position have somewhat derailed those plans. We discuss that and more with Ben Raphel of The Crimson Quarry, SB Nation's Indiana site. If you'd like to see the opponent's Q&A, click here. And hey, basketball season kicks off tonight, and the Hoosiers know a thing or two about hoops.
Q: The Hoosiers had pretty high expectations this season following a 5-7 campaign in 2013. Kevin Wilson's squad has struggled a bit this year, but quarterback injuries have made it tough to get wins. How does the fanbase feel about Wilson going forward?
Ben Raphel: Tough question. Wilson's teams have shown improvement during his first three seasons, but the team has taken a downturn in his fourth. I think fans are starting to show some impatience. He'll almost certainly miss another bowl game this year, his playcalling has occasionally been questionable, and the offense has been anemic. In addition, we just lost a quarterback commitment to Penn State earlier this week. I think Wilson should get another year, since some of the factors of this bad season have been out of his control, but he definitely will be on a shorter leash going forward.
Q: What's the story on Zander Diamont? Was he a big recruit for the Hoosiers, and how would you rate his performance since taking over the starting job?
Ben: I don't think anyone was expecting Diamont to play at all this season, but injuries to starter Nate Sudfeld and backup Chris Covington in the same game have thrust the true freshman Diamont into the role. Unfortunately, Diamont has not had an inspiring performance at QB so far. There was some hope that Diamont could provide a spark to the offense, but so far it just hasn't been the case, and the learning curve has been steep for the kid, as he has yet to throw for over 100 passing yards in a game.
Q: While the quarterback controls the offense, it seems like Tevin Coleman is the key to success for the Hoosiers. Does the offense rest solely on his shoulders?
Ben: At this point of the season, I'd say it does, as he's the only reliable part of our offense right now. Coleman is awesome, but with a limited QB, it's becoming harder and harder to find the running room he needs, and while our offensive line is pretty good, they can't do everything, especially when opposing defenses are lining 8-9 men up in the box. It's a shame because on a better team, he would be a Heisman contender, but hopefully he can end the season strong and turn his college success into a good professional career.
Q: Where can Indiana find the greatest success defensively against Rutgers? Any impact players Scarlet Knight fans should know about?
Ben: Brian Knorr's young defense had its best performance of the year against Penn State last week. The IU defense did a good job at putting pressure on the quarterback all game, Mark Murphy had a pick-6, and the run defense would have been fantastic had it not been for a 92-yard TD run in the second quarter. The defense has been a cause for concern for the past few years at IU, but hopefully last Saturday was a sign that they've turned a corner.
Q: Indiana has always been a basketball school, but there was excitement when Kevin Wilson was hired a couple of years ago. Can you see the Hoosier fanbase getting real pumped for football, or will hoops always dominate the conversation?
Ben: I've been at most IU football games this season. The tailgating scene is terrific - there are lots of grassy fields surrounding the stadium and there's plenty to do in town on gamedays. The crowds aren't the best, but usually by the second quarter there's a good showing, though unfortunately most people leave after halftime.
The best way for Hoosiers fans to really get excited about the on-field product though, ultimately, is to win more games. There is some precedent for Indiana football being good in the past, particularly during the Bill Mallory years of the late 1980s, but we've only had one winning season since 1993. AD Fred Glass has done a great job at getting Hoosier fans out to Bloomington on game days, but to sustain the interest, the team needs to get it done on the field. Otherwise, the fanbase will start to lose interest by the time Hoosier Hysteria (our version of Midnight Madness) rolls around in late October.
Q: What's the reaction been to Rutgers and Maryland joining the conference among Indiana fans?
Ben: When the Maryland and Rutgers moves were announced, I had only recently moved from the East Coast to Bloomington to begin grad school. Despite being a born and bred East Coaster (both my parents are from South Jersey), even I thought this was a strange move for Jim Delany and company at the time. I think there was some initial backlash amongst Hoosier fans, but in time we've gotten used to having you guys around. We joke about how Rutgers fans sometimes try to uphold this "tough-guy" reputation (much like your state's governor), but ultimately we like that you guys are excited to be part of the conference. And no offense to you guys, but I think IU fans were more excited about Maryland, because of their basketball reputation and a chance to avenge the 2002 NCAA Championship loss to the Terps.
Ben: I'd love to be a homer and predict a Hoosier victory, but after the past two weeks I just can't bring myselfdo it. Rutgers wins, 20-13, and clinches a lovely trip to Detroit and the Quick Lane Bowl next month. But at least it gives their fans an excuse to get out of Jersey (sorry, I couldn't resist!).