Crossroads College Football: Hoos that? The Hoosiers

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For over two decades, the Indiana Hoosiers (6-2) have struggled to accomplish a record that was over .500. In fact, since 1994, the Hoosiers have been able to accomplish the feat once. In 2007, the school went 7-6. However, the 2019 Hoosiers are off to their best start since 1993, a year in which they got off to a 7-1 start only to finish 8-4. A part of what sets this team apart from those of recent memory can be described with one word.


The Hoosiers have taken a handful of punches this season, but always find ways to pick themselves back up. After being torn apart by Ohio State in Week 3, they responded by demolishing Connecticut 38-3. Tough, hard fought loss to Michigan State? The next week they zipped Rutgers 35-0. Lose your starting quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., in weeks three, four, seven and eight? Don’t worry, former starter Peyton Ramsey is there to save the day. This team has consistently responded to getting punched in the mouth, something that has been missing for a long time.

There’s no doubt that getting benched is disappointing, especially for a quarterback. However, Ramsey has taken it as a learning experience. His past as a starter is rocky, but not necessarily inefficient. In his first two seasons, he managed to throw for a combined 4,127 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions on 65% passing. So far this season, he’s well outperformed himself compared to that of last season. He has thrown the ball 147 times and connected on 72% of his passes, totaling 1,194 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. At the time he had attempted 162 passes last year, he had completed 71.6% of them, tossing for 751 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. As the numbers point out, there’s been a gaudy improvement for Ramsey under center. He’s not only improved statistically, but he’s also improved as a leader, something the Hoosiers have needed this season.

While Ramsey has been stellar, he’s still not the starting quarterback. That title belongs to Penix Jr., who has done nothing wrong to lose the starting gig. In fact, he’s been just as, if not more, efficient under center as Ramsey, throwing for more yards and touchdowns on two fewer pass attempts. As it stands now, Penix Jr. has thrown 145 passes, connecting on 69% of them, for 1,232 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. Certainly to fans, there seems to be a bit of competition, but to head coach Tom Allen, Penix Jr. is and will remain their starter. Besides, when a backup quarterback can play as efficient as the starter, it’s not a bad problem to have. 

Perhaps the biggest improvement is their defense, which is allowing opponents to 103 fewer yards per game than last. They’ve also managed to allow seven less points per game. They’ve jumped up to eighth in the Big Ten in team defense, compared to their eleventh ranking in 2018. Through eight, the’ve held opponents to 140.8 rushing yards and 169 passing yards per game. While those numbers aren’t dazzling, it plays a huge roll in what is their current 6-2 record. The Hoosiers usually never have much of a shortage on offense, it has been the defense who has struggled. With signs of improvement on that end, especially with a young squad, the Hoosier’s may be in good hands in the upcoming years.

Indiana has a tough road to finish the season. They play a winnable game against Northwestern on Saturday only to face ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks. If the Hoosiers can shock the world and defeat No.5 Penn State and No.14 Michigan, there’s no doubt they’d finish the year within the top 25. Already bowl eligible, they’d need to finish their season with a win against rival Purdue to solidify their spot in a quality bowl game. 

Hopeful? Maybe. Impossible? No.

As long as the Hoosiers retain their resilient nature, there should be no problem in competing with the big dogs. It is true that their game against Ohio State did not go according to plan. The same could be said after their blown lead to Michigan State. However, the past is the past and this squad is confident. If all the stars align, don’t be shocked if the Hoosiers manage to defeat one of the two ranked opponents.

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