Amazingly, a quarter of the college football season is behind us. Indiana is about to wave bye-bye to its non-conference schedule. Purdue continues the meat grinder portion of its schedule. Ball State is still trying to figure out how it let an 18-point lead slip away and a potential undefeated season vanished in the Texas heat.
There won’t be a national championship contender amongst our midst the way Notre Dame nearly returned to glory a season ago, nor does there appear to be a Heisman contender in our state as was the case last year.
But there still could be three bowl teams, as we saw a year ago. And even the team that most expect to struggle showed great progress on Saturday night.
So, here’s a quick systems check for the four Indiana FBS schools, all in action again on Saturday before bye weeks begin with the Hoosiers taking the following weekend off.
NOTRE DAME Current record: 2-1, Projected record at this point: 2-1, Predicted final record before the season: 9-3
The Irish have won the games they were expected to win, and lost a game that most figured they would lose.
However, the game with Purdue was much closer than many expected it would be, and Temple moved the ball against the ND defense in the season opener. And then the Owls were beaten by an FCS team a couple of weeks later.
Add to that Michigan’s near-defeat at the hands of Akron a week ago, and even a loss at the Big House seems a little less impressive.
The offense has been solid, an improvement over last year. The passing game has been significantly better with Rees, and there are playmakers on the outside with TJ Davis and DaVaris Daniels. The pair are averaging just under 100 yards receiving per game.
The defense has been solid against the run, but not as stout as it was a year ago. The major difference has been in defending the pass. Opponents have thrown seven TD passes already while throwing for just under 260 yards per game.
The Irish should win against Michigan State this weekend. Even though Sparty has been tough on D, the State offense has been virtually nonexistent. It also marks the first of four consecutive “home” games. There is a neutral-site venue game with Arizona State buried in there in Dallas, but as long as the Sun Devils aren’t allowed to bring PAC-12 officials for that game, the Irish should survive that one, too.
Oklahoma next week won’t be easy, but being in South Bend won’t hurt. The two toughest games might be the final two games; BYU at home, followed by traveling across the country to battle Stanford, currently ranked fifth in the country.
I still think there are nine wins on this schedule for the Irish. They’ll remain on the fringe of BCS contention as the season continues.
INDIANA HOOSIERS Current record: 2-1, Projected record at this point: 3-0, Predicted record before the season: 6-6
The Hoosiers responded in a big way from the disappointment of the Navy loss by throttling a decent Bowling Green team. Business picks up before the bye with Missouri rolling into town.
The Tigers may have been 5-7 in their inaugural season in the SEC, but they are still an SEC team. That means they are loaded with talent. Indiana has shown its ability to move the football via the pass against quality teams within their own league, but can they maintain the running attack displayed on Saturday against an SEC team?
And, it’s not like the defense, while keeping Bowling Green out of the end zone, exactly shut down the Falcons. Bowling Green racked up over 400 yards on the day.
The upcoming game was one I had “budgeted” as a loss for the Hoosiers, while still able to make a bowl game. The Navy loss takes away the cushion for Indiana. A loss here, and they’ve got to go .500 in Big Ten play to make that elusive bowl game. Possible, yes, but not likely.
Bowling Green was a must-win for the Hoosiers. Missouri is awfully close to that.
Looking forward, I still believe Indiana can beat Penn State at home in the Big Ten opener. I also believe Indiana can win at Michigan State in their first B1G road game. There are still six wins available on the Indiana schedule. Anything else is just a bonus.
PURDUE BOILERMAKERS Current record: 1-2, Projected record at this point: 1-2, Predicted final record before the season: 3-9
There wasn’t much room for optimism after the first two weeks of the Boilermaker football season, even after a win against Indiana State.
There was plenty of reason to smile even after a loss to Notre Dame. Purdue moved the football against the Irish, and stopped the Notre Dame running attack. On the national stage of ABC, Purdue competed, and had a great crowd to sell the debut of the Darrell Hazell era.
There’s still plenty of challenges ahead, with five straight games against bowl-caliber teams from a season ago. And, Gabe Holmes is now out for the season with a wrist injury. Landon Feichter’s not coming back anytime soon with his leg injury. There are at least a couple of bye weeks mixed in during October to space out some of those tough games.
And, a couple of those teams have shown signs of struggle. Michigan State’s offensive issues have been well documented here, and they play Purdue October 19th. Nebraska is having all kinds of problems after losing at home to UCLA, and they visit Ross-Ade October 12th.
There might be an additional win on that schedule for Purdue. Not enough to make a bowl game, but still a chance for this program to continue progress under new leadership.
BALL STATE CARDINALS Current record: 2-1, Projected record at this point: 3-0, Predicted final record before the season: 10-2
Ball State scored 27 points with four turnovers in the first half of its game with North Texas on Saturday. While the turnovers stopped after just one more in the second half, the flow of offense stopped as well.
The defense that was thought to be an issue going into the season has been one. The rushing yardage allowed is skewed somewhat by playing Army, but the Cards are allowing over 220 yards per game on the ground. North Texas averaged over five yards per carry on Saturday.
But it’s more of a big picture debate for BSU. The two biggest challenges on their schedule were supposed to be road games at Virginia and Northern Illinois. North Texas was supposed to be simply a bump in the road. The Cards can still have a great year, but is it one that will gain much national attention or exposure?
All the Cards can control is the next game, and that’s at Eastern Michigan, what has typically been a win for everyone in the MAC. Ball State did finish with six straight wins a season ago. After a setback on Saturday , perhaps they can go on another similar run this season.