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Indiana 2008 season in review: a look at NCAA rankings.

I have already documented that the 2008 season was historically awful.  IU played a week schedule, but by point differential and the sheer number of blowout losses and losses to lower-tier programs, 2008 was one of the worst seasons in IU history.  I'll discuss particular player departures and performances in a couple of weeks when I begin unit-by-unit previews of the 2009 team, but this post will include a look at how IU measured up in various statistical categories.

Here is a link to IU's NCAA team report.  While other sites provide more comprehensive statistics, the NCAA site provides a nice one page nutshell of IU's 2008 season.  Statsheet's more detailed report is here.  The picture isn't pretty. Again, to provide context for these rankings, there are 119 teams in Division I-A.

The bright spots:

  • Rushing.  IU ranked #42 in the nation in rushing offense and #40 nationally with 4.5 yards per carry.  Unfortunately, IU's two leading rushers, Marcus Thigpen and Kellen Lewis, are gone. 
  • Net punting.  IU ranked #26 nationally in this category, which often is the province of bad teams that get quite a bit of practice.  Still, Chris Hagerup, who had a rough start to his career, had a nice season and is returning.
  • Sacks.  IU ranked #36 nationally with 29 quarterback sacks.  This is better news than the rushing numbers because IU has two defensive ends returning, Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton, with all-conference and/or all-American credentials. 

The downside:

  • The passing game.  Hopefully, a year of experience and a healthier offensive line will lead to vast improvement by QB Ben Chappell.  Still, neither he nor Lewis set the world afire last year.  IU ranked #90 in yards per attempt (6.1); #91 in yards per game; #92 with only 11 touchdown passes; and #98 in quarterback rating.  I'll look more closely at Chappell's numbers when I preview the quarterbacks, but this was not a strength for IU in 2008.
  • Defense.  Where to begin with the defense?  IU ranked #110 with only 6 interceptions all season; ranked #108 with 432 yards per game allowed; #102 with 52 touchdowns allowed; #109 with 35.3 points per game allowed.  IU ranked #106 in passing yards per game allowed; #104 with 7.9 yards per attempt allowed; and #107 in opponent's QB rating.  The rush defense wasn't much better.  IU allowed 171 rushing yards per game (#92); and #109 with 30 rushing TDs allowed.

Again, this trip down memory lane isn't intended to depress anyone, but it's worth considering just how far the Hoosiers have to go to be respectable.   What's interesting is that based on the returning experience, if this team is going to be any good, the defense probably will have to lead the way.  The offense is breaking in new starters at practically every skill position.  Nevertheless, the defense's 2008 numbers were way uglier than the offense's.  I don't mean to be doom and gloom.  If it got this bad in a year, it can get significantly better in a year.  Still, the 2008 team was bad, bad, bad.

I had intended to includ in this post a discussion of IU's 2008 losses to MAC schools Ball State and Central Michigan, but that will come tomorrow or another day.