Welcome to The Ciskie Blog's 2008 College Football Preview. As usual, you can expect a rundown of every Division I-A (or "Football Bowl Subdivision", if you prefer) conference, as well as a brief look at the independents. Some of the information used to compile these previews came from various football preview publications that I took the time to review this summer. I give a full endorsement to Phil Steele's College Football Preview (the national edition, as well as his various regional magazines). I also have looked at Sporting News, Athlon Sports, and Blue Ribbon (via ESPN Insider). Information was also gathered from local newspapers and school websites. Please use the comments section or e-mail for feedback, questions, and any corrections you feel need to be noted.
Last year: 7-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten (T-7th)
Postseason: Lost to Oklahoma State, 49-33, in Insight Bowl
The Hoosiers were inspired last year. After the offseason passing of head coach Terry Hoeppner, IU rallied to play for a shot at a 13th game. That 13th game, a bowl, was a stated goal of Hoeppner when he took over a program in arrears in 2005. While he didn't live long enough to see the goal through, interim coach Bill Lynch admirably carried out the mission.
While Indiana returns some talented players from last year's team, the task they are facing is a great one. They have to follow up an emotionally draining season with something that remotely resembles progress.
In good shape
The offensive backfield should be strong this season. QB Kellen Lewis (right) returns from a suspension in the spring. Assuming the lack of work in the spring doesn't somehow affect him, Lewis should be able to build off what he did a year ago. Lewis hit 60 percent of his passes and also led the team with 736 rushing yards. He accounted for 37 total touchdowns. So, yeah, he's a pretty good player. However, he stumbled badly against Wisconsin (the 33-3 loss was IU's worst of the season) and struggled with his accuracy a lot down the stretch. It would help him greatly if RB Marcus Thigpen started to live up to his potential. He ran pretty well for most of the season, but it's telling that he was held out of the end zone, something that should never happen to a player of his ability.
Defense. The Hoosiers were flat-out abused in the Insight Bowl, as Oklahoma State racked up 49 points and over 500 yards of offense. Leading sack man Greg Middleton (pictured) returns to anchor the defensive line. He was first-team All-Big Ten last year with 16 sacks. There is a problem, though. The Hoosiers have to replace a bunch of talent lost elsewhere. Most notably, MLB Adam McClung and CB Tracy Porter both moved on, and the Hoosiers lack depth at both positions. There was a lot of work that needed to be done to begin with, but Indiana is going to find it tough to recover from the high-end losses they suffered on what wasn't a terribly good defense to begin with.
It's possible that no team in the Big Ten will miss its top playmakers like Indiana will miss Porter, McClung, and WR James Hardy (75 catches, 16 TDs). It's possible to re-energize a program in the short-term by teaching players more effectively, but the kind of bad recruiting we saw at Indiana for a lot of years isn't just going to be forgotten about. Depth is important for any program, and Indiana will feel that lack of depth this season. I hate to predict a last-place finish after all they did last year, but the Hoosiers just don't have enough going for them this year.
I'm looking at a season where the Hoosiers are lucky to win more than two Big Ten games and five games overall.