My answers over on the Indiana Blog here.
One of the nice things about being a college football fan is visiting other campuses or learning about the other team and their history and circumstances.
Before we get to the football end of the story, I asked where the quarry imagery came from.
"Regarding the quarry imagery, southern Indiana is limestone country. The Empire State Building and lots of the buildings and monuments in Washington are made of Indiana limestone. In addition, there are many abandoned quarries near Bloomington that serve as swimming holes for locals and students alike. In fact, Bloomington locals (i.e., townies) are called cutters, as in stonecutters. There is a movie called Breaking Away, an Oscar-winning film from around 1980, that sets this out."
1.Hoosiers football has struggled recently. Can you give us a little history of your program? Do the Indiana fans feel the program is on the rise?
Unfortunately, the history isn't much better than recent history. In over 100 years of football history, IU has only two Big Ten titles (1945 and 1967), one undefeated season (1945), and one Rose Bowl appearance (1/1/1968). IU is bearing down on Northwestern for the most losses in college football history. I was a bit spoiled in my youth because I began following IU football during one of the few periods in which IU has consistently won more games than it lost. From 1986 through 1994, IU had six bowl bids and seven winning seasons in nine seasons, two bowl wins, a couple of wins and a tie against Ohio State and one win over Michigan. Since then, it's been a bit bleak, IU's 7-6 record and Insight Bowl bid in 2007 account for IU's only winning season since 1994. Frankly, I think IU fans are a bit snakebitten at this point. IU seemed to have the perfect coach in place in the mid 2000s. Terry Hoeppner came to IU and was a fine coach, a wonderful representative of the university, and actually considered IU his dream job. Unfortunately, Hoeppner died of brain cancer in June 2007. His successor, Bill Lynch, led IU to a winning season in 2007 but couldn't keep the positive momentum going. While most IU fans liked the hire of Kevin Wilson, who spent several years as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, the 1-11 season last year was a wakeup call. I still am behind Wilson, but like everyone else I would like to see some progress this year.
2.The Hoosiers rang up 26 first downs against a pretty solid FCS club in Indiana State. Who played well in that game?
The player who really stood out was Tre Roberson, IU's sophomore quarterback. Roberson was pressed into service as a true freshman last season and was solid if raw. Against ISU, he completed 72 percent of his passes and looked like much more polished than he did last season. On the defensive side, IU allowed lots of yards, particular to Walter Payton Award candidate Shakir Bell, but the defense was pretty solid on third down and did sack ISU's quarterback five times.
3.What is the basic Hoosier offense? What is the basic defense? Name some standouts on both sides of the ball.
Kevin Wilson has a history of being fairly flexible on offense. He is generally known for his spread offense, particularly at Northwestern in the early 2000s, but obviously has run the ball when he had the likes of Adrian Peterson at OU. The current offensive coordinator is Seth Littrell, who played on OU's 2000 national championship team and then worked for Mike Leach at Texas Tech before becoming OC at Arizona. Like Leach, his offense is very fast-paced (IU typically gets to the line immediately and then gets the play from the sideline) with lots of short passes. On the other hand, and contrary to the stereotype, IU had 47 rushes compared to 36 pass attempts. On defense, IU runs a 4-3 and showed essentially no areas of competency last year. Hopefully the ability to rush the passer will continue as the quality of competition ramps up. On offense, other than Roberson, standouts include WR Kofi Hughes, who was suspended for the first game, as well as WR Shane Wynn and Duwyce Wilson. Tight end Ted Bolser was excellent as a freshman but struggled as a sophomore, but played well against ISU. Running back Stephen Houston was one of the few bright spots last season, but will be sharing time with D'Angelo Roberts and true freshman Tevin Coleman this season. Center Will Matte is a four year starter. On defense, again, the unit was a tire fire last year, but the DT has some veterans in Adam Replogle and Larry Black, Jr. LB Chase Hoobler and S Mark Murphy played well as freshmen last year. Several junior college transfers, including David Cooper and Jaccari Alexander, should make a difference.
4.Gillette is a pretty good place to watch a football game. Will Indiana bring any fans?
My guess is a couple thousand. IU has a pretty solid alumni presence in the northeast, but we aren't a school that typically travels well for football. Of course, those of us who are Colts fans think of Gillette as a house of horrors, at least in January. I'm glad it won't snow.
5.How do you think both programs will be doing when we meet again in 2017?
I have no idea how IU will be doing. My guess is that IU will either be in pretty good shape or will be in the early years of yet another rebuild. I think Kevin Wilson will get at least five years to build something, but history tells us that he faces long odds. As for UMass, who knows? If you can get some momentum, I wouldn't be surprised to see a successful MAC program. It seems to me your main challenges will be the stadium issue and being something of a mismatch geographically in the MAC. Although I supposed that in a world in which Boise State is in the Big East and West Virginia is in the Big 12, there is no such thing as a geographic mismatch.
6.Tell us how you think Saturday's game will go.
I have no idea. IU's only non-conference road game last season was at North Texas, not a very good team at all, and IU was absolutely obliterated until a furious fourth quarter comeback led to a misleading final score. IU hasn't defeated an FBS opponent since beating Purdue in November 2010. I feel reasonably confident that IU will find a way to win, but my pessimism suggests that the game will be in doubt well into the fourth quarter. I would be very pleased and not entirely surprised if IU put together its first complete performance of the Wilson era, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Thanks to John M. for taking the time to visit with us!