As another FIU football season dawns on Thursday, our 5 Questions segment on the Panthers'
opponent returns. David Sugarman from WIUX Sports in Bloomington, Indiana joins us this week to answer 5 Questions on Indiana:
1. IU lost some playmakers on offense from last year, specifically quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard. Who are some of the players expected to pick up for those guys on offense and what does IU do best on offense & where are they vulnerable?
DS: There’s really only one question mark surrounding the IU offense, but it’s a big one. New quarterback Richard Lagow. Lagow is a junior college transfer who fits the same mold as Sudfeld. He’s a big, tall pocket passer, but of course still has to go out and prove he can play at this level. As you take a look around at the rest of the offense though, the bulk of the playmakers are still intact including their top three wide receivers from a year ago. Simmie Cobbs Jr. is a big target who went for over 1,000 yards last season and that’s with a fair amount of drops. Ricky Jones went for over 900 yards and Mitchell Paige went for nearly 700 yards and returned two punts for touchdowns to go with his six receiving scores. At running back obviously losing Jordan Howard hurts, but Devine Redding was more than just the Robin to Howard’s Batman last season. Howard only played in nine games last season due to nagging injuries. Redding, along with help by committee, picked up the slack. He went for over 1,000 yards on the season including 230 in the Pinstripe Bowl and IU returns most of an excellent offensive line.
2. How do you think the Indiana defense will do this season. Who are some of their best players?
DS: It’s no secret the IU defense has struggled in the Kevin Wilson era. They were the worst in the Big Ten in total defense last season. It will be a much different look with a new defensive coordinator from USF in Tom Allen as well as new defensive line coach Mark Hagen. IU will be switching from a 3-4 to a 4-2-5 defensive scheme which will certainly be an adjustment. This should flex a potential strength which is the secondary. Safety Jonathan Crawford had an excellent freshman season and cornerback Rashard Fant was second in the nation last year in pass breakups despite being burned a few times. The defense will be a work in progress, but I think the key word is progress which they will make this year. It remains to be seen if the secondary can be consistent and if the defensive line will be able to get any pressure on the quarterback.
3. What is the mood around the IU team as far as FIU goes? They played a close game last season. Also do you think the Miami humidity will factor in for the Hoosiers?
DS: I think the mood is probably one of confidence. Indiana finally broke through and made it to a bowl last season and now it’s about starting to build a culture and sense of consistency with that. Prove that it wasn’t just a fluke. The humidity has a potential to be a factor but having practiced outside in the heat all summer, while it may not compare to Florida, should have the Hoosiers prepared for the humidity.
4. What's the outlook like for Indiana in the Big Ten and its bowl aspirations this season?
DS: The talk around the team and the expectations have all revolved around somewhere in the six to eight-win range and getting back to another bowl. Most expect them to go 3-0 in the non-conference slate and there are probably three games labeled as must wins on the schedule. A seventh or eighth win could come from a potential upset which they came close to several times last year losing by one possession to Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan.
5. What are your thoughts on the IU/FIU game and prediction?
DS: A year ago most Indiana fans didn’t know who FIU was. Now they not only know their name, but know that they’re a good football team. Having said that I think the Indiana receivers will excel against the shaky FIU secondary and the defense will do enough to get by. If the defensive line can find a way to get some pressure on Alex McGough it’ll make it a much easier game for the Hoosiers. Either way I see Indiana coming out on top.